A handful of Democratic lawmakers have decided that rather than engage in intelligent conversation and debate with actual constituents who are protesting nationalized health care, it would be better just to label them crazy.
"It is a small fringe group, and if we let a small group of people who want to monopolize the conversation and not listen to the facts win, you may as well hang it up," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) took it one step further by saying, "These town hall meetings have been orchestrated by the tea baggers and the birthers to just be a free-for-all, make a lot of noise, go on YouTube and show discord. I mean that is what they are determined to do. But that is not going to accomplish what we need to accomplish: real health care reform."
Always the optimist, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded, "In spite of the loud, shrill voices trying to interrupt town hall meetings and just throw a monkey wrench into everything we’re going to continue to be positive and work hard." However Pollyanna-ish that sounds, what Reid is really saying is that he doesn't want to listen to the opposition—even if they are his constituents. Good luck in 2010!
While some fringe elements will always exist when opposition this passionate arises against a single issue like health care, that shouldn't overshadow the broader, not-so-fringe message. Nor should the Democrats focus only on those elements while ignoring the genuine antipathy against Obama's plan for health care.
Trying to link together Americans who have legitimate concerns with groups like the birthers is largely strategic misdirection on the part of lawmakers who are, in theory, supposed to answer to their constituents. A lot of Americans, in fact, are wary of the Senate's grasp of health care. But that doesn't really matter, does it?
The fact that Durbin brought up the "tea baggers" only illustrates this point further. What was so "fringe" about the tea party protests, anyway?
In the end, I'm a tad skeptical about a messaging strategy that consists of throwing around ad hominem attacks before taking the time to listen to constituent concerns. Hopefully, these members of Congress will use the August recess as a time for a little self-reflection.