PJ Media

Town Halls Rock the U.S.: Obama, Are You Listening?

The month of August has been packed with American civic engagement, as citizens across the country have participated in lively debates and issue-oriented initiatives. Most notably, President Barack Obama’s administration and congressional Democrats have been confronted on a daily basis by millions of Americans questioning their proposed solutions to health care reform as outlined in the 1,017 pages of HR 3200. While the forums have ranged from town halls and petitions to rallies and blogs, there is one common thread: in return for their involvement, the American people are being verbally pillaged by the government — the very same people that are intent on controlling our fate through medical treatment decisions. When not satisfied with the highly orchestrated and suppressive health care town halls being hosted by President Obama and the congressmen home for the August recess, Americans are taking the initiative to gather and increase the strength of their individual voices and, in doing so, advance a unified message.

As evidenced on Saturday, August 15, at America’s Health Care Town Hall in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park, the number of Americans — Republicans, Democrats, and independents — against ObamaCare is growing. More than twenty national organizations — representing more than 4.5 million members nationwide dedicated to free market, patient-centered health care reform — came together with small business owners to discuss positive health care reform and call for the defeat of the liberal Democrats’ health care reform plans. With 12,500 people in attendance, the event effectively captured the size, diversity, and strength of opposition to the Democrats’ health care reform bill.

Georgia resident Mark Misenheimer attended the town hall with his teenage son — and not because he was driven or bused in by some PAC or union, as Democrats have alleged time and again about the individuals involved. For Misenheimer, this was the very first time in his life that a certain sense of necessity and responsibility had inspired him to take action and send a message to Washington: enough is enough. Facing a Chicago-style political machine and what often appears as an insurmountable challenge, Misenheimer and other Americans just like him around the country have stepped up to the plate to stop the exportation of seriously damaging and irreversible legislation coming out of Washington. Despite the baseless and inaccurate accusations and characterizations of the bill’s opponents by the White House and Democrats at every level, Misenheimer describes with a great sense of hope and resolution the seriousness of this debate and the importance of being able to communicate it effectively to his son and community. “It’s hard to communicate it without instilling fear, so you do it softly,” he said. “The Bible shares that leaders are installed by God’s will, sometimes to heal and sometimes to punish, and unless we can stand up and share truth, we will get more of what the people have voted for.”

Is this the “hope” and “change” people voted for last November? This very question and the general debate over health care have exhumed not only the obsession that Democrats have with socialism, but also exposed the left’s flirtation with introducing anti-capitalist public policy in America.

In order to hold the Democrats’ feet to the fire on HR 3200 (rhetorically, of course), opponents of the bill spent the majority of that Saturday’s town hall discussing positive free market ideas to improve our current health care system. A panel of experts from the medical field, insurance industry, and patients’ rights efforts was moderated by local radio talk show host Herman Cain.

“We were very pleased with the turnout for the event and the substantive policy ideas that were brought forward by the speakers and panelists,” said Virginia Galloway, interim state director of Americans for Prosperity in Georgia. “This was not just about posters and protests; it was a serious discussion about solutions that would give us more control over our health, not less. The seriousness of this issue is underscored by the fact that not only did we have a great crowd of people who were willing to give up their Saturday and stand in the hot sun, but we had an impressive collection of professionals who brought forward well thought-out policy solutions.”

Less than one week prior to this magnificent display of democracy in action, U.S. Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) hosted a town hall on Monday, August 10. You would think that a congressman’s town hall would be an appropriate time for concerned citizens to inquire and share their opinions with their representative. Instead, attendees were confronted by crowds of Obama supporters outside, while inside they faced Rep. Johnson’s condescending attitude and anecdotes from his political puppets that had been primed for a town-hall-turned-indoctrination-session. Those individuals who dared pursue a tough line of questioning were forcefully removed from the premises.

Despite a ban on signs inside the Cole Auditorium at Georgia Perimeter College, there was an abundance of displays outside. Signs included messages such as, “Thank Rep. Hank Johnson for Co-Sponsoring Single Payer!” and “Single Payer is the Only Option”; T-shirt-wearing Obama supporters and members of leftist organizations included ABLE (Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment), Teamsters Local 728, Planned Parenthood of Georgia, and Operation LEAD. Rep. Johnson spent the majority of his time disparaging health insurance companies, bashing Blue Dog Democrats, and making unsubstantiated claims in support of HR 3200. In an attempt to control the flow of information out of the building and crowd, the organizers banned signs and cameras (except for the media) and completely banned live feeds. And to add to the stunning level of transparency and the free exchange of ideas, “free speech zones” were clearly marked and everyone who entered received a list of rules, a registration card, and a question card which asked, “Are you speaking in FAVOR or AGAINST item?”

Leftist organizations and websites such as ThinkProgress.org were mobilizing supporters to show up and make their presence known. There was no shortage of Obama campaign garb, color-coordinated attire emblazoned with “Health Care for America Now!” stickers. The DNC sent out text messages advertising the event and reported on their website’s sign-up page that there were 2,310 positive responses. In addition, Planned Parenthood of Georgia sent out an “urgent” email explaining “why” people should attend and wear pink to show their support.

From the beginning, it was evident that Rep. Hank Johnson walked into that so-called town hall meeting without any intention of listening to his constituents. He read his talking points and kicked out those who questioned his right to impose the biggest government takeover. When Georgia resident Sean Mangieri asked Rep. Johnson what part of the Constitution gives the federal government the authority to provide health care, Johnson cited the preamble to the Constitution, claiming that the federal government must promote the general welfare, provide a national defense, as well as make laws for the country. Mangieri simply responded with a statement suggesting that he was referring specifically to Article 1 Section 8 (the part that lists the 17 enumerated powers of the Congress). As Johnson continued to make his case for sound legal footing, the police escorted Mangieri and his two colleagues out of the meeting.

These are only a couple of examples of the great Americans who are actively engaging in one of our country’s most important public policy debates, but they are reflective of the millions who are digging in their heels for a long, tough fight. The fortitude and resolve of the American people are shocking the political elite, who are encased in the Washington, D.C., bubble and are emerging to face their constituents’ outright determination to uphold freedom and liberty. HR 3200 is another 1,000-page bill which the president and Congress have not taken the time to read, attempting to exponentially propel Obama’s socialist agenda for America. On top of a trillion-dollar stimulus package, a government takeover of the auto industry, a dismantling of America’s military prowess, a worldwide apology tour on behalf of America, and now a proposal to begin the implementation of a single-payer health care system — ultimately razing the greatest health care system in the world and eventually bankrupting our country — the Obama presidency will be historic in more ways than the one the mainstream media ran his campaign on.

Even the media will not be able to help the Democrats dig themselves out of this hole. In the 2010 elections, Americans will remember the Democrats’ expansive appetite to seize control of every industry and ultimately put a government bureaucrat in charge of making everyday personal decisions for them. There is hope that President Obama will fail in the pursuit of his agenda and America will remain, as Ronald Reagan said, “a shining city on a hill.”