The Rubes of Engagement

Why there's nothing "un-American" about the health care protests


They own the bully pulpit. They enjoy a mandate. They can move the votes. They dictate the debate. They write the legislation. They monopolize the coverage.

When it comes to politics, Democrats are U.S. Steel, Ma Bell, and Google all rolled into one. And yet because of a mystifying cosmic event, they are also victims.

In a recent editorial in USA Today, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and sidekick Steny Hoyer grumbled about how reactionaries are shutting down the voices of the enlightenment on health care. They accused town hall insurrectionists of being "afraid not just of differing views—but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American."

On one point, at least, Pelosi is correct: Many protesters are terrified of fact. Because the fact is every iteration of health care "reform" in Washington is intended to lead us to a single-payer system, which would not only wreck innovation and competition but also inject bean-counting bureaucrats into our health care decisions, from zygote to cremation.

But the notion that grass-roots opponents have the capacity—even by acting boorishly at a smattering of town hall meetings (rudeness, last anyone checked, still is protected by the First Amendment)—to "drown out" the voices of Washington is what our president might call silly.

Pelosi's party operates (in large margins) both houses of Congress, as well as the presidency. Elected fairly and squarely by the American people, no one can stop Democrats from passing any piece of legislation they desire, even if it controls and dispenses a good chunk of the American economy.

The Republican Party, as we all know, is as impotent as it is leaderless. Democrats could pass health care reform today without the benefit of a solitary GOP vote. Democrats certainly don't need the blessing of the mob of irate Brooks Brothers-wearing, un-American, swastika-toting agitators.

If the government-run health bill doesn't pass, it won't be the result of anyone's voice being quashed. In fact, I would be curious to meet the herculean life-form that has the capability to "drown out" either President Barack Obama or Pelosi.

No television, radio, or Web site is immune from the rhetorical maneuverings of our dear leader. Not even "American Idol" could stop Obama from appearing in five prime-time news conferences already. (George W. Bush had four his entire presidency. Don't get me wrong, though; that was best for everyone involved.) If we had any more Obama, he'd require his own station. Oh, wait. …

Not long ago, ABC News aired a prime-time health care reform misinformercial directly from the White House. Not a single critic was allotted serious time to dispel this hourlong homage to munificent leadership. This, despite the fact that John Stossel, one of ABC News' most popular personalities (and one of the most effective opponents of government-run health care), was, I assume, available to question the president.

If Obama desired a vigorous debate, as he claims, he would debate vigorously. Instead, the president has launched snitch e-mails and a "reality check" section on the White House Web site, which allows the administration to conflate over-the-top accusations (e.g., "death panels"; the only thing being euthanized, of course, would be quality health care) with completely legitimate concerns (the "public option" and how it would displace tens of millions from their current doctors and insurance).

Now a "drowned-out" Pelosi has headed to the pages of the newspaper with the largest circulation in the nation to accuse the growing number of involved citizens who feel the health care agenda threatens their livelihoods and the country's future of acting "un-American." How's that for vigorous debate?

The problem for government-run health care proponents isn't that debate is being "drowned out" by fanatical mobs. Quite the opposite. Their problem is that too many people are finally listening.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his Web site at www.DavidHarsanyi.com.