Written by Sultan Knish
The Town Hall meeting has long been a hallowed symbol of American democracy, as embodied in the famous Norman Rockwell painting, "Freedom of Speech" that shows a man, surrounded by his neighbors, rising to speak his mind. It is an image and idea that states forthrightly that government belongs to the people, and that it is governed by the people, not simply in some abstract national vote, but at the local level. That is why the Town Hall is a far more sacred and enduring definition of American democracy than the White House, the the Capitol Building, and even perhaps the Constitution, because it defines the American system of government as based on public participation from the bottom up.
The Obama administration has cynically tried to hijack the Town Hall by transforming into a one way series of meetings, in which enthusiastic carefully chosen citizens voice their approval of his proposed policies. That is not an American Town Hall, it is a Soviet party meeting. In a Town Hall meeting, citizens question their elected representatives. At a party meeting, they give them their wholehearted approval. But it is a part of a pattern for the Obama administration, which works to put an All-American stamp on its un-American program.
Obama began the process with a one hour ABC network special "Town Hall" with no Republican opposition allowed. Naturally enough the Obama Administration's Director of Communications for the White House Office of Health Reform (a position that never existed before) is herself a former ABC news correspondent. Meanwhile to close the circle, ABC's own new Senior Medical Editor was an Obama donor.
Then the AARP, which had replaced its CEO with Barry Rand, a staunch Obama supporter, who had donated over 10,000 dollars to Obama, replacing Bill Novelli, who as a former McCain donor would have been considered unreliable. Unsurprisingly the AARP leadership, beginning with Barry Rand, came out for ObamaCare. By contrast many of the AARP's core membership were unhappy with the organization's sellout.
The real trouble came with the regional Town Hall meetings, where citizens oddly enough showed up to question their elected representatives. And they didn't want to "do this thing fast", as Senator Specter proposed. Instead of the manufactured consensus they had been counting on, e Democratic congressmen were suddenly facing real opposition from the public. And the acrimonious Town Hall meetings in which politicians tried unsuccessfully to silence voters, were a reflection of the American public's negative reaction to ObamaCare.
When the Drudge Report ran a video of Obama at an SEIU union meeting talking about phasing out employee health care coverage entirely, the White House fired back by putting out its former ABC News correspondent to claim that it was taken out of context. The White House however had no rebuttal video to offer when Jon Stewart, usually a reliable ally of the administration on anything progressive, played Obama's own statements, and said, "Wow. That Communist sounded a lot like our President."
Instead the White House focused on the regional Town Halls. The multilevel strategy was to denounce anyone who dissented from the Obama administration's line as either planted Republican lobbyists, or violent mobs of racists. On the one hand you had House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi claiming that Town Hall the protesters were carrying Swastikas, a blatantly false charge. On the other hand you had Senator Barbara Boxer claiming that the protesters were obviously high level Republican plants because they were too well dressed to be real. The bizarre image this conjures up of men and women in suits forming angry swastika wielding mobs would be bizarre to anyone but the most die hard Obama kool aid drinkers.
Unlike the Tea Party protests, the media had trouble ignoring the dissent anymore. Instead they followed the White House line by describing them as "mobs", "extremists" and suggesting they were racist based on the flimsiest of pretexts, including posters of Obama done in the style of the Joker. Washington Post columnists began channeling the ghost of Joe McCarthy when he denounced the "Republican leaders and their ideological fellow-travelers" who "by poisoning the political well, they've given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition. They've become political terrorists." Well clearly if you're not loyal to Obama "and the Obama for which he stands, one nation under Obama", and all that... you must be a political terrorists.
The same Democrats who had been hypersensitive about any perceived statement by Bush critical of their loyalty, shrieking repeatedly, "Don't question our patriotism", at the drop of a hat jumped into line to denounce anyone questioning their leadership as mobs of extremists and political terrorists. The next stage wasn't far behind. The beat down.
Obama's comments about the end of employer based health insurance was at an SEIU meeting. That of course was no coincidence. The SEIU is America's biggest health care union and its most radical union as well. The SEIU left behind the AFL-CIO. They're considered extremist even by union standards. And they're considered thuggish. How thuggish? So thuggish that their violence was actually condemned by the President of the AFL-CIO. After the violence at the Detroit Labor Notes conference last year, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said, "There is no justification-none-for the violent attack orchestrated by SEIU at the Labor Notes conference."
AFL-CIO is no shrinking violet union. It has a storied history of mobsters, ugly mugs and thugs. And to boot, John Sweeney himself was a former SEIU President who had tried to moderate the extreme path on which Andy Stern had taken the SEIU. That was because the SEIU was not simply thuggish and corrupt toward its members and businesses. It was that of course, but it was also remorselessly aggressive toward other unions as well. Stern had led the SEIU walkout of the AFL-CIO, finding it not aggressive enough for his taste. The SEIU's own feuds with UNITE and CNA, the California Nurses Union.
The CNA is itself no shrinking violet, a solidly left wing organization with a taste for election tampering. The SEIU however had become the dominant American health care union by focusing its unionizing further down the ladder, and then working their way up to the nurses. While the CNA fought for an individual nurses union, the CEIU wanted one union to rule them all. The resulting battle saw regular SEIU violence, so much so that CNA actually applied for a restraining order against Andy Stern and SEIU union members, to "cease and desist the stalking of, use of violence against, and harassment of officers, directors, and staff of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee."
Under the restraining order, "SEIU and Stern are prohibited from stalking, threatening, or following CNA/NNOC leaders staff at work, in hospitals, clinics, and offices, at their homes. They are also barred from following their cars or harassing them with mail or phone calls... The order was prompted by a campaign of stalking and harassment by Stern's SEIU over the past week in which SEIU teams have targeted CNA/NNOC leaders in nursing stations, harassed them at home, and followed cars."
This was preceded by a covert campaign by the SEIU to take over the CNA with a front organization, as well as a frontal assault at the Detroit Labor Notes conference, in which 800 SEIU members charged the stage, resulting in injuries and possibly one death outside. The CNA and SEIU have since then come together on their support for Single Payer healthcare, which is essentially a euphemism for health care nationalization.
So there could have been no surprise at the White House, when the first wave of SEIU assaults on Town Hall meetings resulted in arrests. Obama's email dispatch followed by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney's dispatch targeting 50 high priority districts, were window dressing on the real dirty work that would be done by the SEIU union thugs.
The SEIU had been Obama's major backers, kicking in 61 million dollars, and getting two cabinet appointments of their choice, the Health Secretary and the Labor Secretary. They were tied to Obama as power brokers even back in the Blagojevich era. Their appearance at the Town Halls quickly turned ugly, with barred doors, violence and arrests. Side doors were set up to pack the Town Halls with union members.
The following is a description of one SEIU attack,
"Kenneth was approached by an SEIU representative as Kenneth was handing out "Don't Tread on Me" flags to other conservatives. The SEIU representative demanded to know why a black man was handing out these flags. The SEIU member used a racial slur against Kenneth, then punched him in the face. Kenneth fell to the ground. Another SEIU member yelled racial epithets at Kenneth as he kicked him in the head and back. Kenneth was also brutally attacked by one other male SEIU member and an unidentified woman. The three men were clearly SEIU members, as they were wearing T-shirts with the SEIU logo. Kenneth was beaten badly. One assailant fled on foot; three others were arrested. Kenneth was admitted to St. John's Mercy Medical Center emergency room, where he was treated for his numerous injuries."
The media is naturally spinning this story as violence that people at the Town Halls critical of Obama's program are responsible for. Just as they covered for the SEIU during its attacks on CAN. But the facts are there for everyone to see. The SEIU has a well known history of thuggery and intimidation. Congressmen like Carnahan who provided a special section for them and packed his meetings with SEIU members, had every reason to expect exactly this sort of outcome. And Obama cannot claim to be uninvolved with the SEIU either.
The Town Hall dissenters have often been elderly people, and therefore more vulnerable to SEIU thuggery. Obama made his own anti-democratic agenda quite clear when he stated that, "I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess," Obama said to loud cheers. Well his SEIU goons have been getting people who disagree with him out of the way. And then beating and kicking while they're lying on the sidewalk, because theyr'e still not out of the way enough.
Packing Town Halls with members of a violent left wing union, in order to keep dissenting views out, and engaging in violent attacks against against them if they don't keep out, is an assault on the most sacred symbol of American democracy. It's a tactic gleaned from a Bolshevik playbook, with violence used to suppress dissent in the name of the organized "working class". The violence of Obama's SEIU goons in the name of the ObamaCare revolution is nothing more and nothing less than the Obama Administration showing its real face.
From calling for people to pass along any emails critical of ObamaCare to the White House, that is reminiscent of Soviet era informants programs (note that Democrats post 9/11 hysterically denounced a Bush White House plan to have postal workers and other local employees pass along tips about anyone suspected of planning terrorism as Orwellian, to hijacking Town Hall meetings to turn them into a bullhorn for Obama's agenda-- it has become increasingly obvious that when democracy isn't going Obama's way, then rather than listen and go along, he's chosen to try and suppress it instead. If Obama and the Democrats have to choose between Democracy and ObamaCare, they've made their choice clear. Meanwhile the American people have made their choice clear as well in polls and town hall meetings. Which side will win, will determine whether America will be a free nation or not.