I nearly didn't bother to read Jonathan Martin's Politico article today about Rep. Allen Boyd's reflections on the health care reform protesters he's encountered at town hall meetings in his district during the August recess. Entitled "A Blue Dog's Lament," and subtitled "'People Are Scared,'" it looked like yet another maddening snail's-eye-view piece suggesting that the protesters represent John Q. Public and portend the righteous doom of health care reform. I also figured Boyd might well be one of those Democrats opposed to health care reform for less than principled reasons, who's using the protests as an excuse to do what he's decided to do anyway.
But the piece is actually worth reading. Martin--and for that matter, Boyd--do seem to understand that the protesters represent a minority of voters, even in Boyd's conservative Florida district, who probably voted against Barack Obama last year and are simply and logically extending their opposition to his agenda into the opportunity to make some noise about it. And it's interesting that the protesters seem as upset about TARP as they are about their perceptions of health care reform.
As for Boyd, he's making it clear at these meetings that he's going to vote against the House version of health reform. But he appears open to what might well come out of a House-Senate conference committee, and is going out of his way to correct misperceptions of the various bills, and also to remind protesters that many of them already depend on government for health insurance.
The irony that comes through in this account is that many of the protesters are being manipulated by reform opponents even as they express fear of manipulation by Big Government:
“They want to take over our life,” insisted Elaine Thompson just minutes before she shoved a stack of signed pink slips and a copy of the Constitution in Boyd’s hands.
Wearing a shirt that read “Concerned American Patriots” on the front and “Wake Up America” on the back, Thompson, of Marianna, said the White House was being run using “Chicago terrorism.”
“Saul Salinsky is their mentor,” she replied when asked to explain what she meant, misstating the name of leftist community organizer Saul Alinsky, who is often cited by talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. “They are controlling what’s happening in this country.”
After his summer recess, Allen Boyd may disagree.