Friday, August 7, 2009

Fighting "Tyranny" in the Bible Belt

[Just Added: OK, Kids: Protests = Good; Disrupting Meetings, Punching People, Hurling Racial Slurs, Etc. = Bad]

Yesterday, an angry mob in Tampa, Florida forcefully condemned "tyranny." According to some (early) reports, a scuffle ensued as protestors were turned away from a filled-to-capacity public meeting.

Based on the zeal of the crowd, it appeared as if the group came to protest the wasteful expenditure of trillions of dollars ("financed" with a tax cut for the wealthiest households), the senseless killing of thousands of individuals, including many young Americans, and the violent and expensive effort to uncover nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. But no! Instead, the group assembled to condemn the "tyrannical" provision of health care to Americans. This was another great day for family values in the Bible belt.

My Take
I do not agree with all aspects of the proposals for healthcare reform. I also believe that the government should engage in lengthy debate and not rush through the important project. And I absolutely and strongly believe in the right to assemble and to engage in peaceful protest. I support this right consistently -- unlike many people on the left and right.

Nevertheless, I find it exceedingly bizarre and shameful that the prospect of healthcare reform has unhinged these individuals, while many of them (undoubtedly) support or supported senseless wars, government regulation of uteruses, police intrusion into the bedrooms of consenting same-sex adults, and the maddening state and federal governmental effort to make sure that Terry Schiavo remained in a persistent vegetative state. The nation could have benefited from these anti-tyrannical voices a long time ago.

Questions: How many of the protestors attended or have children in public schools? Do they know that public education is a "tyrannical" governmental benefit that increases the taxes of people who do not have children in public schools?

The Buzz -- a blog sponsored by writers of the St. Petersburg Times -- has some video footage (which seemingly was filmed on a cell phone), which I have embedded.


Anonymous said...

I’m torn by the actions of the protestors. I wanted to make it out to the Tampa event last night but due to scheduling conflicts was unable to do so. I don’t like protests like the one displayed above, where shouting and disruption is used to stop discussion and silence the other side. On the other hand, the healthcare bill is being pushed through so fast and with so little input from the public, opposition arguments are not being heard anyways. If a group out of power (which is what Republicans/anti-obamacare people are) will not have their voices listened to openly and considerately, is shouting and disruption a reasonable alternative?

I graduated high school in 1999 and started college thereafter. Now being a graduate student, I’ve spent the entirety of the developmental period in my young-adult life under the Bush administration in an academic environment. I find it very hard to be sympathetic to those on the left who are now upset by the actions of these healthcare protestors. My own experience has seen nothing but demonization and hatred towards anyone with an opinion that differs from the left. I’m right-leaning atheist libertarian: pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, and generally pro-“leave the government out of my personal choices”. However, if I mention perhaps that capitalism is a legitimate economic system that has allowed for untold freedom in the world.. I’m right-wing nutjob. Suggest that perhaps the 2nd amendment is an individual freedom.. I’m a redneck who wants to facilitate murders. My cousins who are serving or have served overseas in the military? Baby killers who should be tried for war crimes. I can’t even get the left on campus to concede that the oppression of women and hatred towards gays in Islamic countries is bad, because it’s just cultural differences which if we judged, would make us racist.

After 8 years of left-extremism being excused as a valid form of social protest and legitimate form of discussion (dissent is patriotic!), I’m particularly enjoying it coming from the other side. Now suddenly the protests and shouting down of those whose opinions differ is seen as a bad thing, a mob, and a suppression of speech. To quote you: “The nation could have benefited from these anti-tyrannical voices a long time ago.”

Were you just as disappointed with the actions on the left over the last 8 years as you are with those on the right currently?

repsac3 said...

On the money, sir. (Both this piece and the "lengthy debate" post.)

It's a shame that the need to get elected and stay elected-- which, I assume, is the reason for needing to pass this (& everything, seemingly) according to these unrealistic timetables --gets in the way of doing the best job possible while elected.

Like you, I'd prefer that the folks in congress and the American people discuss and debate the merits and the pitfalls of this legislation, so that everyone involved knows what they're voting on before the vote takes place.

But the "shout 'em down, shut it down" mentality of the baggers showing up to these meetings isn't conducive to that kind of talk from anyone. Instead we get hysterical (in every sense of the word) tales of mandatory sex changes, taxpaid abortions for trannies, and your grandmama and mine, out on the ice floe. Other than making alot of people laugh (which is good for the system, they say) and really stressing out others (the Glenn Beck crowd, mostly), this kinda talk isn't doing much for improving medical care.

Dissent is patriotic, and there is a time for getting rowdy in response to an issue, too. But when the goal of your protest is (or seems to be, and has resulted in) ending meaningful discussion at a forum designed for it, your protest goes too far. People can disagree without being disagreeable... and it's the only way that anything is going to happen.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

To Anonymous:

I take that either the academic environment you are in has "less-than-academic" people or that you are overly dramatizing the responses you recevied from "liberals." Either way, those "arguments" come across as soundbite. As a law professor, my entire career is dedicated to debate. As a progressive gay law professor of color teaching constitutional law, my entire career is dedicated to dissent. Some of the points you mentioned are things that academics debate all the time. The SCT only recently held that the Second Amendment conferred an "individual" right. Prior to that time, many people engaged in reasoned debate on the issue. I suggest that you expose yourself to passionate -- but thoughtful -- people on both sides of the aisle. Hatred of dissent is a NONPARTISAN principle -- which leads me to the rest of your post.

As I stated in my essay, I am not mad at the protestors. I in fact stated that I absolutely support the right to assemble peacefully, while many people on the right and left do not. During the early part of the Iraq War, conservatives called war protestors unpatriotic. People were arrested for wearing t-shirts that protested the war. The Dixie Chix were chased out of Southern radio. "Support the troops" because a phrase that meant "shut the hell up."

So while I respect the right of the protestors to engage in protest, I think it is narrow-minded to suggest that only liberals do not believe in protest when it comes from the other side of the aisle. The arguments that you (and the other poster) have made ("dissent is patriotic") is blatantly taken from the leftwing protestors who were trying to respond to the negative atmosphere surrounding speech.

My main point, however, was not even to criticize protests, but to suggest that many people who are protesting healthcare reform do nothing to protest and actually support far more "tyrannical" policies than government spending. While you are apparently a rightwing atheist with a libertarian streak, you are a rare breed. I have argued on this blog repeatedly that the GOP should capture people like you in order to appeal to independents and disenchanted liberals (a label I sometimes wear).

Finally, I would say that the First Amendment does not guarantee speech without any restraints. The government can place "time manner and place" restrictions on speech. An effort to drown out a town hall meeting is an exercise of expression, but it was inappropriate for the time and place. I would say that "loud" protests should remain outside of the meeting place so that people can talk. Inside, all points should be heard. I took the same position with respect to anti-war protests.

Finally, I assume you are a new visitor. Take the time to read the numerous essays I have written that bash the left. Any effort to do a "gotcha" on me with respect to partisanship is doomed to fail. Thanks for reading.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Repsac3: Thanks! You are definitely right -- speech that silences others is not speech. It is the tyranny that they claim to condemn.

Anonymous said...

<-- Anonymous from above
I’ve regularly been visiting your site since the election, and keep coming back because you provide very even-handed and insightful commentary on political and social issues about both the left and the right. I apologize if my comment appeared as if I was trying to catch you in a gotcha moment, I’ll attribute that to my unrefined skills in blog commentary, the early time of day, and my overall frustration at the putting down of the healthcare protestors. While I don’t like people being shouted down and would not participate in such an endeavor, I am disheartened by the attempts to dismiss arguments about the current healthcare plans as only the efforts of big-pharma paying people to protest. The fact that people I personally know claim such things and can’t understand that there are two sides to every issue has made it more salient for me. Just as it was wrong for the right to dismiss war protestors as un-American socialist extremists, it is just as wrong to characterize those against the current medical plans as terrible people. I see this happen continually in my peer networks, and was disappointed with the current post’s “Instead, the group assembled to condemn the "tyrannical" provision of health care to Americans.” (which suggests that those for Obama’s policies want to provide health care to Americans while those who oppose it apparently do not want Americans to have heath care).

You are right that my above comment was a combination of less-than-academic people and soundbites. But it is also just as true that the above video and actions of a small percentage of individuals don’t represent the entirety of the arguments against the current healthcare reform proposals.

Unfortunately when it comes to the academic environment I’m not as optimistic as you are about it. Being in a social science there is no room for debate among faculty about the issues I have stated. Either you agree with the prevailing leftist thoughts or you stay silent if you want to succeed (and I’m at one of the top programs in my field). I enjoy a rigorous debate knowing that while there are two sides of an issue, both individuals are coming from a unique perspective and ultimately want what they feel is best for people. I have now spent my graduate career never stating any opinions in my larger academic peer group (students and faculty), and the few who know openly tell me not say anything until after tenure. If I was racist or homophobic, I could see that being the case, but being skeptical about climate policies and supporting an individual’s right to firearms.. those are apparently too extreme.

Thank you for all of your posts on the site, you provide a unique and critical perspective on the issues.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

I don't know what field you are in, but I know many scholars who have made their careers thinking critically. I have criticized leftist ideas - usually from a leftwing perspective. I will admit that many academics and other graduate professionals are not open to conservative thought, but if I were you, I would label myself as an independent and go for it. I am pretty certain that I have lost some opportunities due to my views, but the opportunities I do have are more enjoyable because I am honest in my analysis.

Anonymous said...

Hutchinson, interesting to note how you resort to name calling when someone disagrees with you!
"While you are apparently a rightwing atheist with a libertarian streak..."
Why not just say, "Nonny, Nonny, nu, nu." Makes as much sense as what you wrote.

gcotharn said...


Do you really think protesters are upset over the prospective provision of additional health care to Americans?

You misinterpret them and misrepresent them. They are upset because they believe Obamacare will restrict the provision of healthcare to Americans: will result in mediocrity and in rationing.

Do you really think protesters are trying to silence those who disagree with them?

You misinterpret and misrepresent them. Protesters believe their own voices are not being heard in this national debate, and this is why they are upset.

Last night, protesters in St. Louis and in Tampa stood in long lines, in the heat, only to watch purple shirted SEIU members skip the lines and be ushered in through side doors and be provided "reserved" seating. Protesters believe their voices are not being heard.

In St. Louis, a thousand protesters were locked out of Russ Carnahan's town hall; then three SEIU purple shirts punched and kicked a protester to the ground(the victim was calmly asking people if they would like a "Don't Tread on Me" flag; the SEIU attackers' anger was possibly activated b/c the victim was black). Protesters believe their voices are not being heard.

President Obama has said "the time for discussion is over". Protesters believe their voices are not being heard.

You righteously assert your belief in protest ... right up to the moment when these protesters are stirred to action; and then you declare them "unhinged". You are demanding. You only approve of a narrow, narrow sliver of behavior which occurs between "stirred to action" and your definition of "unhinged". Further, the vast majority of protesters are as well behaved as can be, and do fall inside your narrow sliver of appropriate actions, yet you do not choose to either highlight them or acknowledge them.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

1. Did you play the video. As soon as the Congressional Rep. started talking, they started booing loudly, drowning her out. There is no way under the sun that this result was not intentional.

2. You have assigned one view to the protestors. But if you listen to their convuluted message, you hear other components -- e.g., costs, socialism, etc.

Finally, to the extent that you believe I am disengenuous about protest, so be it. I do not believe the First Amendment confers a right upon people to drown out speakers at a public debate. I have always held this view; it is supported by conservatives on the Supreme Court; it is oxygen to me as a con law professor. Rallies and parades and marches are different forums. People can pull out bullhorns, drums, etc., and scream and shout. But a "townhall" meeting is a different setting, and the First Amendment does not give me or anyone else the right to shut it down.

Question: If a conservative organization was holding a "roundtable" on at some public location on the "Need to Overturn Roe," do you think the First Amendment would permit NARAL to round up hundreds of pro-choice people to come in with microphones, drums, and other noise-makers to silence the talk? If you answer yes, then you don't really believe in speech.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Anonymous said: "Hutchinson, interesting to note how you resort to name calling when someone disagrees with you!"

Um, you need to read before hurling critiques. The person I was talking to described himself/herself in the following manner: "I’m right-leaning atheist libertarian: pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, and generally pro-“leave the government out of my personal choices”."

Ergo, I am not engaging in "name-calling"; I am embracing the person's own self-characterization.

Furthermore, I COMPLIMENTED the statement and said that the GOP should embrace people like this person. Apparently, you did not read my post enough to understand what I actually said.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

I agree that the yelling and screaming at the Tampa meeting was irritating, uncalled for, and over the top. I hope they tone it down. But I find it interesting that the only acts of physical violence involve SEIU thugs attacking a man for passing out 'don't tread on me' flags at a St. Louis meeting, and in Tampa, Karen Miracle who is Treasurer of the E. Hillsborough Democratic Club, her husband, Garry is the Political Director, and it was Karen Miracle who used physical violence.

I think the yelling and screaming in that meeting was over the top and uncalled for. But it was the Democratic Club Treasurer who resorted to using her hands on another human being for the use of political speech with which she disagreed.

It's also interesting that there's nothing wrong with passionately protesting police actions, but it's wrong to passionately protest your elected officials ramrodding through bills without reading them and refusing to listen to constituents- locking them out of meetings while sneaking in supporters through the back doors.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...


Several things. First, I do not condone violence. Shame on all of you who engaged in violence! Second, there is absolutely nothing wrong with passionately protesting police misconduct, and there is nothing wrong with screaming, yelling and doing other things to protest health care reform. But as I have said consistently in this thread, it's the "time, manner and place" issue that is the most relevant and significant to me. Had Gates been stalking a cop while he was trying to work, yelling and demanding attention, he should get arrested for disorderly conduct. Instead, he was protesting police conduct in his own home, and the cop invited him outside solely in order to create a violation of the law. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that disorderly conduct cannot occur in a home. Under another set of facts, could I disagree with passionate protesting of police: YOU BETCHA!

gcotharn said...

"2. You have assigned one view to the protestors. But if you listen to their convuluted message, you hear other components -- e.g., costs, socialism, etc."

"Costs" and "socialism" are hardly convoluted messages.

The cost is allegedly $1 Trillion over 10 years; then, in the words of one analyst: "the bottom drops out" and health care cost explode to currently unfathomable levels.

Re: Socialism
Obamacare is government takeover of private enterprise. That is socialism. Obamacare is loss of freedom for citizens of the United States; is government forcibly compelling citizens. That is socialism.

Where is "convoluted" in "costs" and "socialism"?


It's impossible for large numbers of humans to come together without some persons crossing over the line into ungraceful behavior. Such is not a surprising story of a wide swath of unhinged persons, but rather is unavoidable human nature.

Public debate is raucous, and always has been in America - going right back to the founding of this nation. Public debate is not for dilettantes. My complaint is that you are misrepresenting a bunch of amazingly well behaved private citizens who ARE NOT upset over the provision of healthcare, but rather over the potential mediocrity and rationing of Obamacare; who ARE NOT trying to silence opposing voices, but rather want to be heard, and would also like to hear opposing voices be able to elucidate and expand on details about how Obamacare will work. You are misinterpreting, misrepresenting, and cavalierly dismissing a bunch of good Americans who are participating in democracy - including fitting themselves into your narrow, narrow definition of what constitutes proper democratic behavior - which doesn't prevent you from cavalierly slandering them.

As for your questioning of my belief in the First Amendment: I'm solidly on record as supporting arrests for disturbing the peace. If protesters disturb the peace: arrest them! The only people who got arrested last night were 2 purple shirts and one woman who beat a black man for having the temerity to assert his First
Amendment rights in graceful fashion.

Meanwhile, you are casually slandering Americans who are participating in democracy in exactly the way which makes our nation great. Meet the Mob

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Gcotharn: I think you need to study the plan AND socialism a bit more. Healthcare reform is not a "takeover of private industry." Also, you argue that the government is "compelling people." How exactly is this socialism? The government already compels people to do a number of things -- get innoculated, pay taxes, get car insurance, etc. Is that socialism too?

And, yes, the protestors' message is convoluted. I reach this conclusion largely based on the fact that the plan is NOT socialism and the fact that, as even some conservatives have argued, they are inconsistent in their approach to money. Why weren't they protesting when Bush squandered the surplus and cut taxes during a war?

Also, people can impede speech without necessarily commiting a crime. Also, crimes can happen without an arrest. So, your arrest data is inapposite. It's hard to dispute the fact that drowing out the voice of a person making a speech is, well, not debate but harassment. Asking that people adhere to decorum is not asking them to be weak-minded. Instead, it fosters debate if people listen....Parliamentary rules have been used in our system and others before for centuries. Your effort to equate the chaos in those videoes with debate is a nonstarter.

Finally, I have not slandered anyone. I thought you said debate requires thick skin. If you think saying that people should save the football game mentality for an appropriate venue amounts to slander, then, again, I think you should reevaluate your own commitment to speech.

Roy Lofquist said...


Couple of comments.

You question why these folks are protesting this particular question when they ignored other issues that you consider pressing. Well, different strokes for different folks. I thing this might be a category error.

As to the "incivility" of the protesters it should be noted that these people are in a group that is considered one of the more polite and civil amongst us. They are go along, get along on most issues. These people are angry - probably for the first time in many a year. What would cause these people to act like this?

I have spent many an hour following these stories and I think I might have an idea. You call for a civil discourse but the health reform advocates have foreclosed that option. At the beginning these people asked reasonable, direct and pertinent questions. The answers they got were canned talking points that emanated from leadership. The questions were asked because they did not feel that the talking points addressed their concerns.

It's like calling an automated telephone and find that after pressing buttons for 15 minutes you realize you keep looping amongst the same "menus". You know the feeling - what blankety-blank button do I push to talk to an actual human being? They are getting the run around and don't like it. They are expressing their opinion in the only way open to them.


gcotharn said...


Lets be clear about our areas of disagreement.

Area 1

My complaint is that you are representing that video clip from Tampa as typical of the good people all across the nation who are protesting Obamacare. Do you really believe that? This is the part of your blogpost which is misleading. The protesters in various cities are largely well behaved. I agree with Roy Lofquist: "these people are in a group that is considered one of the more polite and civil amongst us". The protesters, across the nation, largely display that civility.

Area 2

You protest the booing in Tampa. The Congresswoman obviously said something which the crowd did not agree with. You could hear the crowd shouting out "That's a lie". I have no problem with the crowd expressing disagreement through booing.

You speak of "drowning out speakers at a public debate". Come on. This was an emotional crowd, yet they quieted down, and the Congresswoman was able to continue. The crowd was not trying to "shut down" that meeting. The crowd was trying to have their voices and their concerns be heard; the crowd was trying to express their dismay about Obamacare.

Do you believe protesters across the nation are mainly motivated by desire to shut down speech? If so, we disagree. A belief that protesters are trying to shut down speech implies that protesters are afraid of what Obamacare proponents have to say. I don't think protesters are at all afraid of the truth. They want the truth to be known. It's apparent the protesters across the nation believe Obama and Congresspersons are lying. They want truth to come out, but they've little confidence that they are hearing truth. In that respect, you - who have much faith in the goodness of Obamacare - and me and the protesters are all on the same side: we all believe the truth will show the wisdom of our position.

Area 3

Focusing on when the protesters go over the line is not as important as asking yourself: WHY do they have such passion for this issue? Roy Lofquist asked the right question.

Of course protesters across the nation - desiring to express themselves and have their voices heard - are going to display passion: they would not leave their houses if they were not passionate. Passion is a plus. Of course they are sometimes going to go over the line of graceful behavior: they are human. They want to be heard. Roy Lofquist again hits nail on head: the protesters are getting canned responses which do not address their concerns. Peggy Noonan:

But you can’t get people to leave their homes and go to a meeting with a congressman (of all people) unless they are engaged to the point of passion. And what tends to agitate people most is the idea of loss—loss of money hard earned, loss of autonomy, loss of the few things that work in a great sweeping away of those that don’t.

People are not automatons. They show up only if they care.

What the town-hall meetings represent is a feeling of rebellion, an uprising against change they do not believe in.
the health-care protesters have to make sure they don’t get too hot, or get out of hand. They haven’t so far, they’ve been burly and full of debate, with plenty of booing. This is democracy’s great barbaric yawp.

Here's the url to Noonan:

Finally, the meeting agenda of a Congressperson is not sacrosanct. Those are the Congressperson's bosses in the audience; the Congressperson's Board of Directors; the Congressperson's stockholders. If the Congressperson is not addressing the widespread concerns of the bosses, the Congressperson ought be informed of this. This is not an equal debate in which rules have been agreed to beforehand. The crowd had no prior opportunity to manage the agenda. The Congressperson has the microphone, and ignores widespread concerns at his or her own electoral peril.

(continued below)

gcotharn said...

(continued from above)

Area 4

You ridicule protesters across the nation for not protesting in the past. Many of them likely do not share your interpretation of the recent historic events you mention. But, lets assume they did disagree with those events, and you now ridicule them for not protesting those events: your comments only highlight the morality of their decisions to now protest Obamacare.

If a bully takes your lunch money 20 days in a row, and you fight the bully on the 21st day, then your action on the 21st day is moral and virtuous. Your criticism implies that these protesters are largely acting out of political opposition to Barack. Thus you belittle their motivation: you refuse to grant them credit for sincere, moral, virtuous, democratic opposition to Obamacare. You refuse to give them credit for standing up to the bullying government program which promises to take some of their freedom.

Area 5: various and sundry

Definition of Socialism: like pornography, I know it when I see it. Consider, also, a government slowly compels it's citizens in more ways, and in more ways, and in more ways: at some point that crosses a line and is Socialism. I ALREADY think we've crossed into what I think of as Socialized government. Obamacare, however, imo, unquestionably pushes us over the edge. If Obamacare passes: there is no going back; Obamacare can never be undone. Single payer will inevitably result, as private insurance companies cannot compete with government insurance which is backed by unlimited funds.

Conservative British politician Daniel Hannan says England adopted socialized medicine in 1944, during the deprivations of WWII. Now it cannot be undone b/c the British medical system is the second largest employer in the world. It employs more middle managers than doctors and nurses combined. Hannan:

"I find it incredible that a free people, living in a country dedicated and founded to the cause of independence and freedom, can seriously be thinking about adopting such a system in peacetime, and massively expanding the role of the state when there is no need."

Here's that url w/Hannan describing the FUBAR which is the British healthcare system:

convoluted: I said complaints about cost and socialism do not equate to convoluted complaints. I stand by that, and we can agree to disagree.

gcotharn said...

Something which I mentioned, yet want to emphasize:

calling these townhalls a "debate", and emphasizing Parliamentary procedure, is a bit much and is a bit misleading. A debate implies give and take; implies follow up; implies equal speaking time. These townhalls are opportunities to listen to Congresspersons; to cheer what you like; to express displeasure with what you dislike; to hopefully get to ask a question. And that's it. You are not allowed follow up; you are not allowed equal speaking time as the Congressperson. If the Congressperson lies - especially if the Congressperson lies in response to your question, or mischaracterizes your question: what is your recourse? Pretty much, your only recourse is to boo or to shout out.

Decidere said...

First, I don't think Tampa is part of the Bible Belt, nor St. Louis.

gcotharn, you can look at the various rallies here to see if Tampa is indicative or if these folks are "well-behaved".

Also, you can see from the videos that the audience gets to speak, including tea baggers, even when they're obnoxious. Either you're misinformed or you're a liar. Hopefully watching the videos will inform you.

I live in a country with socialized medicine - access to health care has been very good, very streamlined, good attention from doctors and therapists for a number of extremely serious issues. I had "very good" insurance in the US, and it was hugely painful to get examinations and to deal with payments. Telephone numbers were just an excuse to waste a half hour going through menus with no results. Actual examination and recommendations by doctors were a joke, and of course with all the money that I and my employer put into this faulty system, I'm really amazed that people are pulling the fear card over costs for socialized medicine. The basic point is that most industrialized countries pay half what we pay for health care. If you want to continue to fund insurance companies, you're welcome to send them a donation, and it might even be tax deductible. Me, I'd like to see a non-dysfunctional system working in the US like I see where I am.

Decidere said...

Oh, for gcotharn, every year there's a 4th of July fireworks show. The people who put it on use taxpayer money. That doesn't mean I can go take the firecrackers and disrupt the show. I can't walk into a school and take the teacher's desk. People set up a meeting to hear from representatives. Just because you have an overgrown sense of self-entitlement doesn't mean you actually get to determine the agenda for a meeting someone else set up. They have arranged means for audience participation. It's a little looser than a traffic light, but the basic principle of traffic control rules - keep a steady flow, maintain reasonable order.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Decidere: Having grown up in Florida (and still having very close ties to the state) I can say with certainty that Tampa is still in the Bible Belt. I enjoyed your comments!

GCotharn: I was responding to your own words: "public debate is racous." Now you don't want the word debate. Call it debate, townhall, meeting, whatever - the organizers of the Tampa meeting did not want that madness to occur.

Btw - you never responded to the NARAL invasion of a pro-life townhall. Pro-choice people are very passionate about abortion. Should they be able to "storm" townhall meetings on abortion regulations simply because they "want answers"? Your defense of the Tampa protestors likely rests more on ideology than anything else. They have a right to protest; they do not have a right to silence others. There is a place for rallies; there is a place for calmer reflection. If this is not the case, we spend way too much money paying for kids to receive an education and to learn how to participate in civil society!

Roy: Even if I accept that the crowd only acted the way it did out of disagreement with "canned" answers, this does not excuse their behavior. The presidential debates, any political "townhall" meeting, oral arguments before judges, and a host of other public events involve scripted responses. On some level, that's simply a product of people having to prepare ahead of time. Yet, we do not expect people on either side of the political aisle to explode in lunacy because they hate an answer. So - that explanation simply does not work for me.

I would say: separate yourselves from ideology. It is clear that townhalls are not conducted the way they were in St Louis or Tampa. I do not care which group -- conservatives or liberals -- was responsible. It was lunacy to me.

Roy Lofquist said...


A distinction must be drawn between the world as it should be and the world that is.

I think one of the major problems here is terminology. The politicians dubbed the meetings "Townhalls" because it sounded so Norman Rockwellish. In reality, townhalls only work in small, homogeneous communities where peer pressure enforces civility and order. Our form of republican government was specifically designed to lessen the influence of transitory majorities. Politicians heretofore used "townhall" to dignify what were campaign stops. Things have changed.

I could deconstruct your particular line of argument by comparing it to the civil disobedience of the civil rights movement in the 60s and 70s, but I won't. I don't think neither you nor I would find that useful or productive.


Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

If you even there's a valid comparision between shouting at healthcare reforming meetings and civil disobedience in the 60s - which was necessary to protect people's lives from fire bombing, lynching, disenfranchisement, segregation, unemployment, [continue with parade of horribles], then I don't think we can argue because the comparison is pretty comical.

Also, the civil rights movement involved all manner of political tactics. Sit-ins were peaceful -- not boisterous. The rallies in the streets in the South where Bull Connor turned dogs and fire cannons on teenagers were also peaceful. The marches were dignified. People were not acting like a bunch of yahoos.

People can be civil in large crowds. Did you watch Michael Jackson's funeral? I have taught first-year law school courses with 100 students; it looks like about 100 people were in the room in Tampa. Needless to say, despite the "passionate" disagreement among students, no one has experienced a meltdown in class. If a student does, I will put him/her in check rather than stroke his/her ego.

Tampa has had many town halls before without this drama. Making excuses for the protestors in St. Louis or Tampa is shocking to me. Under your analysis, they cannot help but act like soccer hooligans because "things have changed." As much as I admire your commentary, Roy, I find that view preposterous.

Anonymous said...


"Definition of Socialism: like pornography, I know it when I see it. Consider, also, a government slowly compels it's citizens in more ways, and in more ways, and in more ways: at some point that crosses a line and is Socialism. I ALREADY think we've crossed into what I think of as Socialized government."

I wonder. Look up "socialism" in a dictionary: it means the government OWNS the means of production and distribution of goods. The US is definitely not a socialist country.

Socialized medicine would be something similar to the UK -- i.e. doctors and hospitals would be EMPLOYEES of the government. No one is advocating socialized medicine like this in the US. Doctors and hospitals would still be privately run. The fact that you would even compare Obama's plan to the UK shows how little you understand.

I am no supporter of Obama's health care plan. It's a massive transfer of wealth to the health insurance industry. Why do you think that industry is paying for television ads PROMOTING Obama's plan?

"If Obamacare passes: there is no going back; Obamacare can never be undone. Single payer will inevitably result, as private insurance companies cannot compete with government insurance which is backed by unlimited funds."

I fail to understand how adding a public option would "inevitably" result in single payer. As two Harvard doctors wrote:

"Health insurers compete by NOT paying for care: by seeking out the healthy and avoiding the sick; by denying payment and shifting costs onto patients; and by lobbying for unfair public subsidies (as under the Medicare HMO program). A kinder, gentler public plan that failed to emulate these behaviors would soon be saddled with the sickest, costliest patients and the highest payouts, driving premiums to uncompetitive levels. To compete successfully, a public plan would have to copy private plans." (Why Obama's Public Option Is Defective, and Why We Need Single-Payer.
By Drs. Steffie Woolhandler and David Himmelstein, July 22, 2009, The Progressive)

Read that carefully. A public option, by definition, would NECESSARILY have to cover those whom current private insurance denies coverage to. This would drive up premiums. The ONLY way a public option could "compete" with private insurance would be if they adopted decisions as if they were a PROFIT company.

Obama's plan does not solve the true problems of the cost of health care: insurance companies that spend millions on marketing and lobbying; those denied coverage who quickly fall into bankruptcy; massive wasteful overhead and paperwork... Obama's plan does nothing to change any of this and simply funnels billions and billions of dollars into an already dysfunctional system.

Those who are "satisfied" with their private insurance companies have most likely never had to deal with them face to face. Try dealing with the ridiculous COBRA system, spending hours and hours with 3 different people on the phone correcting computer mistakes. Try finding health insurance if you work 3 part-time jobs and can't get any through your employer, and you're not a 25-year old perfectly healthy subject with no history of anything. Try dealing with claims adjusters who deny you coverage after you've been paying premiums for years, as you slowly rack up tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt and go bankrupt. Then we'll ask if you're "satisfied".

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Hutchinson: You write: "You are definitely right -- speech that silences others is not speech. It is the tyranny that they claim to condemn."

I am glad you agree with me that the judicial orders that ban school prayer are tyranny...

I deplore the yelling and howling at Congressionals. It's not the way to beat this dreadful health care monstrosity. But when our Congressionals try to avoid personal contact by telephoning it in, the likelihood of yelling and screaming is going to arise.

You are bang right about the hypocrisy on both sides. The folks who howled down Castor are cousins to the ochlocrats who roared down Tom Tancredo when he tried to speak about his notoriously hostile views to illegal immigrants at a university. Both can justify their noisiness; both are wrong.

Finally: I'd like you to try opting out of the public education system. You will find that even if you home school, the State will make it arduous to do so. Even if yo are successful in beating back the NEA dolts, you will certainly still have to keep paying taxes for schools.

I'd be interested in your views on the beating of Kenneth Gladney, a black man, by white men from the Service Employees International Union at St. Louis. Trouble is, Gladney is a self-described conservative, who was selling Tea Party paraphernalia, and was plainly opposing a left-wing initiative, being pushed by a black President who doesn't want those who oppose him to speak too much. No room for that in Critical Race Theory, hey? Even a wise Latiina like SS might have trouble justifying that to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

Anonymous said...

"I am glad you agree with me that the judicial orders that ban school prayer are tyranny..."

Nice strawman. The courts have consistently ruled that students are free to pray in school. "School prayer" is another matter; it is not exercise of individual free speech; it is prayer that is explicitly sponsored or approved by the public school (state).

I'm Christian but I would be offended by a Christian prayer given at a high school graduation ceremony. The ceremony is secular in nature, because it is celebrating the graduation of students from a public, secular institution.

If you really support school prayer, would you have any problem with having a Muslim prayer at a high school graduation? Or how about if the football team joined in a Buddhist chant right before the big game? If you're Protestant, would you have any problem with a priest giving a dozen Hail Mary's over the PA system before every school day? If you would object to any of these, you're being hypocritical.

Anonymous said...

"Even if yo are successful in beating back the NEA dolts, you will certainly still have to keep paying taxes for schools."

Hmmm... so we only pay taxes to public schools if OUR kids attend? You should tell that to all those people who never had (or will have) their own kids!

Roy Lofquist said...


I have been trying to avoid discussing politics qua politics. I am much more interested in understanding the behavior of the people.

Having said that, let me respond to your refutation of a parallel between civil rights and the current situation. At the core of the civil rights debate was the argument that government power was being used to discriminate against a class of people. That was the convincing factor that brought the country to, if I may, your cause.

What we are seeing now is a foreboding of a massive power grab by the government. TARP shook the country and was passed within a week. The stimulus bill emerged and was passed overnight. The government essentially nationalized our financial institutions and our automobile industry. Cap and trade was rammed through on a strictly partisan basis. Now we see an attempt to coopt a sixth of our economy, the most personal part, by the same people who run the DMV and the VA hospitals. People trust doctors, they have very little respect for politicians.

You can argue about the efficacy and advisablity of these actions but that is irrelevant. What matters is people's perception of the situation since Obama assumed office. Civility and reasoned debate can only prevail when people do not feel overwhelmed by events.


Decidere said...

I'm continually amazed by the school prayer thing. If you're religious, do you really want some stranger leading your child in devotions to God? If you're a conservative Christian, would you want say Nancy Pelosi or Hillary Clinton leading your kid in a Bible study group? This is all pure show, just a stunt.

Roy Lofquist said...

Dear Decidere,

I grew up with prayer in school. We started with the Pledge of Allegiance. Imagine the consternation of 5th graders when Congress added "under God" in 1954. Another damned thing to learn.

This was followed by the Lord's Prayer - King James version.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.

This is hardly religious indoctrination, unless you regard the very mention of a Creator as coercive. It is pretty non-sectarian. It is certainly not Christian nor do I think that it is offensive to any of the great religions of the world. It started the day infusing us with a certain humility and a solemnity conducive to study.

This, rather than Roe v. Wade was the Genesis of the reaction against judicial activism. A vocal harridan with a very small following caused a change to established custom on what was viewed to be a gaming of the legal system. Lest you think I am being unkind in describing her as a harradin I refer you to:

She was not a fine upstanding citizen but rather a venal opportunist.


Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Roy - I am entering a conversation between you and Decidere, but I couldn't help but commenting on your position that the Lord's Prayer is "certainly not Christian." That's interesting, given that it comes straight out of the New Testament and was the prayer of "the Lord" (Jesus) himself.

Also, in some abstract world, references to "God" could mean any religion with a deity, but on the ground, in a society where Christianity is the dominant religion, this means the Christian God.

It is coercive to FORCE kids to recite/believe in this stuff. It certainly helps to reinforce relgious culture. Isn't that precisely why many highly religious people support these things ("bring God back to the schools")?

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Greg: Anonymous has already smacked down your sloppy effort to compare my request for decorum with the school prayer movement.The Supreme Court has not held that people in school cannot pray. Instead, it has held that schools cannot make kids pray or use things like "moments of silence" designed to push prayer underground, creating the same religious environment as state-sponsored prayer. Your argument is bankrupt.

gcotharn said...

Decidere Point 1: Protesters are crossing a line: you tube evidence.

I say protesters are largely well behaved, and sometimes inevitably cross the line into inappropriate behavior. Crossing the line, rather than proving protesters are somehow "unhinged", or are coordinated by nefarious astroturfers, is instead inevitable, and only proves human beings are imperfect.

Decidere Point 2: Socialized medicine is more efficient and economical than free enterprise medicine: anecdotal evidence.

I say the odds of American socialized medicine being more efficient and economical are extremely low. In fact, I haven't thought of a scenario in which such a thing could occur.

Human history and human nature have proven private enterprise is more efficient and economical than public enterprise.

Milton Friedman, 30+ years ago on Donahue, may as well have been speaking of the present day healthcare debate:

Is there some society that doesn't run on greed? [Do government-dominated societies not run on greed?]

What is greed?

The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. The great achievements of civilizations have not come from government bureaus.
The only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you are talking about - the only cases in recorded history - are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worst off, it's exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. So that the record of history is absolutely clear: there is no alternative way, so far discovered, of improving the lot of ordinary people, that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system.
What does reward virtue? [Does government reward virtue?]
Is it really true that political self interest is nobler somehow than economic self interest? I think you are taking a lot of things for granted. Just tell me where in the world you will find these angels who are going to organize society for us? I don't even trust you to do that.

url to Milton Friedman on Donahue:

Decidere Point 2A: "The basic point is that most industrialized countries pay half what we pay for health care."

I simply don't believe that is true. I suspect you are comparing apples and oranges.

Decidere Point 3: profit is bad (esp insurance company profit).

I disagree. Thank God for profit. Wealth is a great alleviator of human suffering.

And what is insurance, really? It's a financial instrument - a method of financing expenditures. It's so valuable that, if it didn't exist, we would invent it and then laud it as fabulous and wonderful and life-saving.

(continued below)

gcotharn said...

(continued from above)

Decidere Point 4: the U.S. healthcare system is disfunctional

It's also functional in many areas, and is a great blessing to the United States, and in fact is a blessing to citizens of other nations who benefit from U.S. technologic breakthroughs, and who sometimes come directly to the U.S. to benefit from our advanced healthcare system. If Obamacare becomes law, the pace of technologic medical breakthroughs will slow dramatically. People who could be kept alive via technologic breakthrough will instead die.

Parts of U.S. healthcare could function better. And some of that existing disfunction has been created by incompetent and/or corrupt government regulation. Part of fixing the broken parts ought include fixing such regulatory travesty.

Decidere Points 5 & 6: illegal behavior is illegal; unvirtuous behavior is unvirtuous

I agree.

Decidere Point 7: during a public townhall meeting, booing and shouting and interrupting the Congressperson is either: a) automatically unvirtuous, or b) was unvirtuous in Tampa and in the linked YouTube videos

I disagree, and further address your point in my response to Darren.

(continued below)

gcotharn said...

(continued from above)

Darren's Point 1: gcotharn called it public debate, then complained when I said debate

There is "public debate" which is national back and forth over some issue, and which exists over some days, weeks, months, years. Then there is "debate" as you were describing it: as would occur in your law classroom, or in a Parliament, or in a Congress; and which implies back and forth, and which implies extended speaking time to make a reasoned case. "Public debate", as I use the term, and as practiced in current so called "town halls", does not allow speaking time for all parties to make a reasoned case; does not allow for extended back and forth (unless the Congressperson generously accedes to such with specific audience members). "Public debate" in such a setting is therefore, and inevitably, more raucous. Which is not to say audiences do not sometimes go too far: it's inevitable that audiences will sometimes go too far.

I originally made this distinction pretty clearly in my comment which began [emphasis added]:

"calling these townhalls a 'debate', and emphasizing Parliamentary procedure, is a bit much and is a bit misleading."

Darren's Point 2: NARAL invading a pro-life townhall = healthcare protesters invading a townhall

Apples and apples, if you believe healthcare protesters are going to meetings with primary intention of disrupting meetings and shutting down speech.

Apples and oranges, if you believe healthcare protesters are going to meetings to get some answers, to have their voices heard, and to influence the democratic process in their preferred direction.

NARAL could only be going to a pro-life townhall to agitate. Does NARAL believe they can influence a pro-life crowd to abandon their religious belief? NARAL does not believe that.

Conversely, healthcare protesters have a reasonable expectation that they can get some answers, have their voices heard, and influence the democratic process.

Darren's Point 3: "the organizers of the Tampa meeting did not want that madness to occur."

Two points:

First, most Congresspersons risk open meetings as part of their ongoing efforts to be rewarded on election day. In democracy, an open meeting ought carry risk of encountering contentious constituents. Whatever happened to "dissent is patriotic", "speaking truth to power", or Barack's "I'm depending on you to get out there and get in their faces"? Glenn Reynolds:

"Funny how fast the worm -- or maybe it's the pitchfork -- has turned. Now that we're seeing genuine expressions of populist discontent, not put together by establishment packagers on behalf of an Officially Sanctioned Aggrieved Group, we're suddenly hearing complaints of 'mob rule' and demands for civility.
President Obama and his handlers need to accept that this is a free country, one where expressions of popular discontent take place outside the electoral process, and always have. (Remember Martin Luther King?)

What historians like Gordon Wood and Pauline Maier call "out-of-doors political activity" is an old American tradition, and in the past things have been far more "boisterous" than they are today."


Second, part of what attracts voters is ability to perform under pressure. There was a way to speak to that crowd and to gain their attention. The Congresswoman made a valiant effort, and the crowd did give her their attention for a brief time, yet - during the video - she wasn't fully up to the task of holding their attention. Someone else might have been up to the task. There was a way to do it. Bill Clinton would have overtly felt the crowd's pain.

(continued below)

gcotharn said...

(continued from above)

Darren's Point 4: "Your [gcotharn's] defense of the Tampa protestors likely rests more on ideology than anything else."

My initial reaction is you may as well have written "F/U gcotharn".

My second reaction is that I appreciate your plainly stating your thinking. Now we're getting somewhere.

You don't believe those healthcare protesters can be so passionate about losing some of their freedom; can be so passionate about Congress rushing legislation which is neither fully written, nor read, nor understood; can be so passionate about being fed stale talking points in answer to heartfelt questions; can be so passionate about being lied to by their President and by their Congress. Thus you belittle their motivation; you refuse to grant them credit for virtuous and moral intent; you believe their passion is strictly about partisanship. You don't believe I can be so passionate about myself and my fellow citizens losing our freedom, and thus you belittle my intent, and believe I am acting largely out of partisanship.

Time will tell. I suspect you are in for a shock. Robert A. Hahn:

"Many Democrats, including many editors and reporters, have come to believe that hundreds of middle-aged and older people — people with incomes and lives, and plenty else to do — have taken part-time jobs as rent-a-mobs to shill for insurance companies, or the RNC, or somebody. They think this because that is how Democrats create similar events....
Causing the same sort of outcome among conservatives is more like herding cats.
Having tried to organize many of these things myself, I can tell you that if conservatives care about a cause, they will show up in their own car with their own sign ready to give ‘em Hell. If they don’t care about the cause, nothing is going to get them away from their quite rewarding lives.

For Democrats to imagine that the people showing up at Town Hall meetings to oppose the Democratic agenda on health care are paid shills is a shockingly stupid blunder."


Something else: you have written pretty words about debate. Belittling our motivation has the effect of shutting down debate. If Obamacare is so clearly righteous, it ought be easy to counter our opinions and clearly win the debate.

Darren's Point 5: "they [protesters] do not have a right to silence others."

I disagree that protesters are silencing others. I believe others do get a chance to speak.

Darren's Point 6: Townhalls are a place for calmer reflection.

My conception of appropriate "townhall" calm differs from yours.

To Anonymous,
I might reply later, but not now.

liberal dissent said...

I just want to make two comments in response to what I've seen on here:

1. A large number of these protesters are organized by the healthcare lobby, so the idea of these as passionate defenders of individual rights rings falsely. And even if the ones on the ground And Darren has it right when he asks where were these people prior to this? It's a fundamentally dishonest position; protest "intrusive" government only when someone who doesn't share your ideology is in power. Whatever the flaws on the left, they at least have the consistency to demonstrate against both right and left administrations.

2. The comparison of this with the civil rights movement is ludicrous for two reasons especially: (i) the protesters in this case are not a disenfranchised minority, but tend to come mainly from a group (rural/suburban white middle and upper class) that has collectively decided this country's leadership for the past 200 years, and (ii) civil rights protesters were willing to not only protest nonviolently but get arrested for it. I would guess the majority of the debate disrupters lack the moral courage to do so, especially considering all the snivelling about socialism boils down at a general level to "I got mine; screw everyone else," mixed with a large dose of old fashioned right-wing black helicopter paranoia.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Excellent points! I would add to this that many of the people I now see comparing the protestors to blacks in the 60s condemned the courts for enforcing the rights that blacks obtained. Unprincipled.

gcotharn said...

in reply to liberal dissent,

Re astroturf:

Mickey Kaus:
"If an 'astroturfing' campaign gets real people to show up at events stating their real views, isn't it ... community organizing?"

Kaus url:

re hypocrisy = partisan intent

Could the protesters be hypocrites and yet be acting virtuously in these protests?

More pertinent, imo: a lot of these protesters, I guarantee you, have never attended a public protest in their entire lives. They keep their heads down, work and live their lives, and work inside the system. It's hard to call such persons hypocrites: public protest is just not their style. You can focus on possible hypocrisy if you wish. However, you might take a moment to consider: what has it taken to motivate such persons to leave their homes and attend their first ever public protest?

re: "at least have the consistency to demonstrate against both right and left administrations."

The right doesn't demonstrate: until now; until the porkulus and Obamacare.

re: (i)historically powerful whites cannot be compared with civil rights demonstrators

First of all, the comparison is not a comparison of suffering, but rather a comparison of the exercise of rights. Exercise of rights does not hinge on degree of suffering.

Second, aren't you being a bit cavalier about the status of Obamacare protesters, and about the risks and dangers they perceive?

These are citizens who are not in power; who face a loss of freedom which is agonizing for the human soul; who perceive potential death and suffering as a result of: mediocrity, corruption, rationing, and severe reduction of technologic breakthrough. That they have not faced the deprivations and hardships of black Americans does not invalidate the risks they face.

(ii)A: civil rights protesters were willing to protest nonviolently

have you seen violence from Obamacare protesters?

(ii)B: civil rights protesters were willing to be arrested

How do you know Obamacare protesters are unwilling to be arrested? I think you assume a lot. Obamacare protesters include military veterans and little old ladies who chase off burglars with broomsticks. I think you underestimate their degree of commitment, as is inevitable, since you believe their motivation is fundamentally partisan and insincere.

This Obamacare protester (beginning at :30) was obviously willing to be arrested in order to have Rep. Dingell hear his voice: Does that man look like he is motivated by partisanship? or by heartfelt concern about bad policy?

(continued below)

gcotharn said...

(continued from above)

Re: conservative complaints = selfishness and greed

It must be comforting to think so. Your presumption is a way of avoiding the issues being raised; is a way of shutting down debate.

Digression: What you might consider, when next tempted to stereotype conservatives: wealth is a great alleviator of human suffering. Conservatives, on our good days, desire wealth b/c it is an objective good for everyone. Jesus said "love your fellow man". Producing at maximum efficiency is good for everyone, and is an active and virtuous method of loving your fellow man. The faster that wealth is created, and is churned back through the economy, the better for everyone.

re: black helicopter paranoia

Is it? Or is it wizened knowledge of human history and of human nature? Government is not as efficient and economical as free enterprise. This has been proven. If you disagree, you are simply ignorant of history and of human nature in a way which those simpletons who protest Obamacare are not. Many of those protesters are not good with vocabulary, are not good with stringing words together. Yet, they have things to teach you, if you were wise enough to listen. Yet, you are not. You confuse glibness and formal education with wisdom. You cannot imagine that those Obamacare protesters - who do not even understand the as yet unwritten and unexplicated bill as well as you - you cannot imagine that those simpleton protesters have something to teach you. Your loss.

what the? Who protests the enforcement of rights? Might they be protesting the law itself, i.e. the creation of invalid or prejudicial "rights"? B/c, if they are protesting the enforcement of existing law, they are almost surely misguided, and I don't know of them.

What is your implication? Racism? By whom?

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