There is little doubt that America’s internal political debate has become more intense in recent months. One indication is the town hall meetings that are routinely held by Congressional representatives around the country.
Normally, these meetings are staid, boring affairs with sparse attendance and little, if any, press coverage. Questions usually revolve around topics such as “Why have I not receive my Social Security payment yet?”
This summer the town hall meetings have taken on a new dimension, undoubtedly reflecting the intense debate about health care and the role of government in the American economy.
There is no doubt we are seeing new tactics and political strategies unfolding. National political leaders are openly referring to the actions of town hall participants as “un-American” and comparing some participants to Nazis.
Some politicians seem convinced the meetings are being used as a form of political theater and that the participants are being brought in to disrupt the meetings and upstage the Congressman holding the meeting.
The response has been increasing tension with charges that some groups are bringing in “union thugs” to intimidate and physically threaten people attending the meetings.
The White House has also gotten directly involved in unusual ways. It has produced a videotape to attack or highlight a video posted through a popular website (the Drudge Report) and set up a special email address for citizens to report “fishy” tactics by opponents directly to the White House. Not surprisingly, this raised alarms from political opponents and led to charges that the administration was engaging in improper activity and encouraging citizens to spy on one another in “big brother” fashion.
Whatever the reason, it is unusual to see Congressmen shouting at audience participants, accusing some constituents of being part of a larger conspiracy, and to see Americans, many of them senior citizens, yelling at Congressional representatives, laughing at them and even calling them liars to their faces in public meetings.
Much of this political activity has been caught on tape and is being passed through internet sites and broadcast endlessly on news shows around the country.
Intentionally or not, the health care debate is creating a political firestorm. The ultimate result may impact the future of government in American society and, in one way or another, probably be reflected in future election results.
Have politicians for either (or both) major political parties done a good job of handling the debate or framing the issues? We will provide the results of this survey in the next few days along with a representative sample of comments that reflect the most typical responses.
For those who wonder about the placement of the possible answers in these questions, the computer program displays the options randomly so that readers may see the possible answers in a different order.