The word has come down from the leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) have sent a message: “We are not amused.”
Or was it “let them eat cake”?
Lots of ink and bandwidth have been expended on those rowdy town hall protesters. As PJTV’s Steven Crowder illustrated, most aren’t that angry. But those whose tempers are flaring are igniting the type of faux outrage that distracts from the real issues underlying the ObamaCare boondoggle.
Relatively little press has focused on angry Democrats like Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Rep. David Scott (D-GA) losing their cool and shouting at constituents. Nor is the media debating whether the many Democrats dodging town halls can take the heat.
The focus is on the citizens, who are mostly amateurs in the area of public dialogue.
I don’t condone incivility of tone, but neither will I join in this media-induced hand-wringing over it. Most of the people who attend town halls aren’t reading this column. They don’t view themselves as part of a cause. They’re speaking for themselves, for perhaps the first time.
No one can control them and it’s foolhardy to try.
Speaker Pelosi calls those who are rude at town halls un-American. Her statement ignores how ordinary Americans typically behave. Those of us who have worked customer service know well that many Americans get quite nasty when things go wrong. Those who are getting out of hand at town halls have likely gotten out of hand over not getting tomatoes on their salad.
But it never occurred to me to tell a customer irate about his computer warranty that he was being un-American.
Most customers kept it under control and often said: “I’m not mad at you. You didn’t create this problem.”
At town hall meetings, however, voters are talking to some of the people who helped create the problem. Yet our members of Congress think they are the public’s masters, not their servants. Customer service representatives from every industry in this country may have to field the wrath of people dissatisfied with the product, the service, or the company policies, but members of Congress apparently should be immune from such wrath by virtue of them being members of Congress.
At least according to Speaker Pelosi.
The office of congressman, senator, or governor is worthy of honor. Would to God that those who hold those offices thought so. The past few years have been a highlight reel of congressional bad behavior. Former Congressmen Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, and Mark Foley helped lead the Republican Party to its current low, and the misdeeds of Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) and Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and David Vitter (R-LA) haven’t helped matters.
The Democrats haven’t drained the swamp as promised. There’s been Senator Roland Burris’ (D-IL) many lies and deceptions. There’s been Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) getting sweetheart deals from Countrywide as “Friends of Angelo,” and for Dodd this is just the starting place for his long list of ethics problems. It didn’t take a jury long to convict former Congressman William Jefferson of accepting bribes, but Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats had no problem allowing him to continue to serve in the U.S. House despite the overwhelming evidence. Foley’s successor, former Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-FL), turned last year’s election into a soap opera.
Then we have former Democrat Governors Elliot Spitzer (D-NY) and Rod Blagojevich (D-IL).
If politicians are treated with contempt, it is because they, as a class, have behaved contemptuously. Members of both parties have shown a high tolerance for corruption. The public tends to view members of Congress as oversexed middling figures on a power trip, perhaps hoping to earn big money as a lobbyist after their time in Congress. The public mostly accepts the corruption of Congress as a fact of life, electing incumbents on the philosophy of “better the devil you know.”
However, when people we distrust and view as corrupt start wanting to mess around with our health insurance coverage while running an annual deficit of nearly $2 trillion, many are justifiably angry and will show it.
I wouldn’t urge shouting down members of Congress. I would much prefer sarcasm as a response to the demands of Speaker Pelosi. Go to a town hall meeting and begin your statement with an obsequious “my liege lord” or “if it pleases your excellency.” Maybe curtsy for them.
What’s becoming apparent to the American public is that we have an imperious Congress full of big egos and little minds, greedy, near-sighted people who are drowning future generations in debt and have the gall to demand that people calm down.
To fix their image, Congress would have to lower its tolerance for corruption and in a purposeful way make itself worthy of the public’s respect. But it’s almost certainly too late for that now. What was seen as benign corruption is now properly viewed as a danger to the health, safety, and happiness of ordinary Americans. Democrats should brace for an electoral bloodbath a year from now.
The GOP should take note. In choosing the candidates who will try and make that bloodbath happen, Republicans should choose people who will increase the stature of Congress in the eyes of the public rather than the insincere flimflam that too often ends up carrying an (R) label to Washington.