Most town halls boring

What would be encouraging news, if it weren’t from that right-wing propaganda machine, The New Republic. E.J. Dionne writes:

Over the last week, I’ve spoken with Democratic House members, many from highly contested districts, about what happened in their town halls. None would deny polls showing that the health reform cause lost ground last month, but little of the probing civility that characterized so many of their forums was ever seen on television.

“I think the media coverage has done a disservice by falling for a trick that you’d think experienced media hands wouldn’t fall for: of allowing loud voices to distort the debate,” said Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, whose district includes Columbus, Ohio.

At her town halls, she said, “I got serious questions, I got hostile questions, I got questions about how this would work, I got questions about how much it will cost. I also got a lot of comments from people who said it’s important for their families and businesses to get health care reform.”

Rep. Frank Kratovil hails from a very conservative district on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and says it didn’t bother him that he was hung in effigy in July by a right-wing group. “As a former prosecutor, I consider that to be mild,” he said with a chuckle. The episode, he added, was not at all typical of his town-hall meetings where “most of the people were there to express legitimate concerns about the bill, wondering about how it was going to impact them” and also wanting “to know the truth about some of the things that were being said about the bill.”

The most disturbing account came from Rep. David Price of North Carolina, who spoke with a stringer for one of the television networks at a large town-hall meeting he held in Durham.

The stringer said he was one of 10 people around the country assigned to watch such encounters. Price said he was told flatly: “Your meeting doesn’t get covered unless it blows up.” As it happens, the Durham audience was broadly sympathetic to reform efforts. No “news” there.

I’m still unsure if the current “reform” proposals will do more harm than good, or even how to go about making a responsibly informed judgement on the matter; a non-single payer attempt to achieve universal healthcare is, to my unschooled knowledge on the subject, unprecedented (a fact that in-of-itself draws my skepticism. I also remain agnostic as to the utility of single-payer systems; all the Canadians with whom I’ve ever discussed their system spoke generally approvingly, but one does still hear horror stories. Granted, these stories appear most frequently in ideological outlets, and anyway are anecdotal and inadmissable to the scientific statistical evaluations on economics, standard of living, &c. that judgement on such policy calls for; but they might be reflective of a wider trend of disaffection.) But still. It’s comfroting to know even congresspersons who get hanged in effigy have to admit their situation is usual. The national mood might not be in as poor a state as I thought.

In related news: A Moveon.org-affiliated demonstrator bit off the finger of an anti-reform protestor.

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