Friday, November 06, 2009

Billions and Billions

Michelle Bachman, R-MN, called for another tea party, this time in Washington, DC. The new darling of the very, very conservatives made that call on Sean Hannity's Fox News show, and thousands responded. I didn't find any firm numbers, but the Minneapolis Star Tribune indicates that "some" crowd estimates were in the 5,000 to 10,000 range, including 120 Minnesotans who bussed in.

From the Strib article:

Descending on the U.S. Capitol on Thursday as Congress heads for a showdown vote on health reform, thousands of conservative protesters heeded the call of Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann to show their anger at what they see as a government takeover of health care.

In a boisterous reprise of the summer town hall meetings that galvanized Republican opposition to the Democratic health care overhaul plans, demonstrators -- including several busloads from Minnesota -- followed Bachmann's exhortation to fan out throughout the House office buildings and confront lawmakers, who are scheduled to vote on Saturday.

U.S. Capitol Police reported 12 arrests outside the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on charges ranging from unlawful entry to disorderly conduct. Pelosi, a California Democrat, had been a focal point for many of the protesters, including one who wore a mask depicting Pelosi holding handfuls of bloody fetuses.

That last part was undeniably ugly, but most of the protesters apparently were quite well-behaved and polite, if Minnesota Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison's experience with them is any indication.

So, were any minds changed in Washington with respect to health care reform, which is coming to a vote in a rare Saturday session in the House? Probably not. Republicans are not going to vote for the House bill and most Democrats will. Still, at least thousands of citizens took the time and the trouble to go to the Capitol and to make their points heard. As far as I am concerned, that's always a good thing in a democracy.

There are, however, some interesting side lessons to be learned from the event. Coming so soon after the Republican loss in NY-23, the event makes it clear that the party's base-base is not going to shut up and go away. Republicans are going to have their hands full with the wishes and demands of the far right wing of their party for years to come.

Next, the event was announced on Fox, which then took the ball and ran with it, much the way the network did for last summer's tea bagging parties and town hall meeting disruptions in directing viewers to sources for information and planning. In other words, that "news" organization helped stage the event, from start to finish, in Pravda-esque fashion. I find this troubling.

What I'm waiting for are the Sunday Morning talk shows. Let's see how the "legitimate 'news'" outlets handle the story.

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