Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Norman Rockwell Is Back!

Yesterday, I decided to test my faith in civil decorum one more time and went to another Town hall meeting on health reform. This was in Hudson Massachusetts and was hosted by Congresswoman Nikki Tsongas as was the one I attended last Saturday in Chelmsford. I was somewhat concerned that the bad behavior and all around rudeness that I saw in Chelmsford would repeat itself.

I was pleasantly surprised. There were probably 175 people or so at the Hudson High School auditorium (thankfully air conditioned) and this was the mirror opposite of the experience at Chelmsford. Although there were some of the LaRouche protesters outside with their conspiratorial message, the audience was nearly 100% polite and respectful of both the Congresswoman and one another.

To be sure there were strong passions on both sides of the debate. I would estimate it ran about 70-30 against the current reform proposals in Congress. But each person who asked a question or who made a point was able to do so without being shouted down or heckled. This is a what democracy in practice ought to be.
If anything, disrupting meetings like this and heckling people actually makes the side that engages in that behavior less appealing to ordinary people. These town meetings have been getting a lot of press and neither side is well served by such tactics. It does energize the far right and far left bases, but debates and elections are won in the center.
I am not sure why the experiences were so vastly different. It could be that a different sort of crowd was attracted on a Tuesday after work than on a Saturday morning. Whatever the reason, I am feeling better about the process. Norman Rockwell lives on!

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