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Town hall attacks on health care -- mob rule or democracy in action?

August 10, 2009 |  8:14 am

Tea party protester on health care reform in Florida

It's getting ugly out there.

Opponents of health care reform are disrupting town halls from coast to coast. As Ticket reported last week, protesters in Maryland hung a congressman in effigy. In Texas, anti-reformers held a sign showing a tombstone with Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett's name on it. And in Missouri, police arrested six people outside a health care forum with Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan after protesters organized by the conservative St. Louis Tea Party clashed with pro-reform union workers.

Fighting back, the White House has set up a website -- whitehouse.gov/Reality Check -- and a new email address -- flag@whitehouse.gov -- so supporters can pass along rumors that seem, well, fishy. "Scary chain emails and videos are starting to percolate on the Internet, breathlessly claiming, for example, to 'uncover' the truth about the President’s health insurance reform positions," the White House blog said.

On the Hill, normally quiet during August, Democrats have set up a war room where members of Congress under attack can call for help. With protesters urging their supporters to disrupt the meetings -- “Become a part of the mob!” said a banner posted on the website of Fox talk-show host Sean Hannity. “Attend an Obama Care Townhall near you!” -- the Democratic National Committee is urging backers to skip the town halls and visit their representatives in their offices.

House Minority Leader John Boehner argues that the disruptions are evidence of "the widespread anger millions of Americans are feeling this summer toward Democrat-controlled Washington." "The Republican National Committee responded with an e-mail titled "THE MOB? Hey Democrats, They're Called The American People."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to be having trouble deciding what she thinks of all this. As the Ticket has reported, last week she said the protesters were exercising their democratic rights. Asked if they represented grass-roots opposition, she dismissed their cause as "Astroturf."

But today, in an op-ed with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in USA Today, she writes, "These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades."

With President Obama scheduled to conduct his own town hall in New Hampshire tomorrow, let us know what you think -- is this democracy in action or mob rule?

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo credit: South Florida Tea Party

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