I just got in from Rep. Pete Stark's standing-room-only healthcare reform town-hall meeting in Alameda. I didn't speak, but had a rink-side seat, five yards from the congressman's podium. Speakers at the meeting were chosen mostly randomly. In the final third of the meeting, though, Stark wisely made it a point to "hear from the other side," the minority present which clearly opposed the healthcare-reform legislation currently under consideration in Washington. I'm pleased to report that it was a fruitful, mostly orderly hour and twenty minutes, which a few loons from the LaRouche Society failed to disrupt. Labor and single-payer advocates were well-represented, so were many people who openly supported Obama's plan, or who were largely sympathetic, but had questions.
I had wanted to be more involved in the progressive effort in the days leading up to the meeting, phone-banking for progressive turnout, and the like. There may well have been a MoveOn email with details about how to do this, but I misplaced it. The few phone calls I made, didn't amount to anything.
There were a lot of people out in front of the City Hall with signs for Obama's healthcare-plan, and for single payer. I'd say we out-numbered the LaRouch-ers and tea-baggers 9:1.
I wasn't taking notes, but sample questions for Stark from the audience included, "How are we going to pay for this?" and "Why doesn't the plan under consideration include coverage for illegal immigrants, since they use our emergency rooms, anyway?"
Stark had thoughtful answers. In most cases that I recall, he clearly nailed each question, and did it in such a way that the audience was satisfied.
There were, as I've said, a few nuts--probably less than 3% of the attendees inside the room. By a "nut," I don't mean someone who disagrees in good faith with provisions of the healthcare-reform legislation under consideration; I mean someone intent on disruption and division. My favorite was the woman in the back of the room, with a Lyndon LaRouche sign, who burst in about "how her multiple sclerosis might oneday make her a candidate for euthanasia, if the new legislation was passed."
I can't resist putting in here that I have MS, too; it disqualifies me from eligibility for for-profit healthcare funding by making it too costly to afford. Come to think of it, that's a basic reason I'm so interested in healthcare reform.
This LaRouche nutjob (who may have been one of the unfortunates with cerebral lesions that cause dementia :) was shouted-down by other attendees, not for her message, but because she rudely ignored Stark's protocol of ordering speakers by randomly calling out numbers handed to him.
Another archconservative, maybe a LaRoucher, got shouted-down later, with a chant of "Wait your TURN!" "Wait your TURN!" "Wait your TURN!
"The sense of entitlement on some of these people is amazing," I thought of the LaRouchers. "They're in a minority that's clearly lost, they are hopelessly fragmented, without message control, AND STILL THEY WANT TO MONOPOLIZE THE DISCUSSION."
They didn't succeed. It was a good afternoon.