Democratic congressmen may not be looking forward to the upcoming town halls in their own districts, but online liberal activists at the Daily Kos and Democratic Underground are already passing around ways to possibly triumph over the embarrassing you tube videos of government health care supporting politicians being confronted by average Americans.
Below are some of the tips for town halls written by Daily Kos writer Don Briggs:
Rep. Pete Visclosky (D, IN-01), on Monday, Aug. 3, 6:30 PM. We invited the public and their written questions. It seems good to share with the Daily Kos readership some lessons we learned.
#1. We sent out Public Service Announcements to the local media a week in advance, and then followed up with phone calls to each outlet the Thursday before the weekend. The event got good exposure.
#2. The topic of Health Care Reform…
#2 Democratic leadership is charging that those who are are attending town halls and questioning their representatives are “manufactured” and are a result of GOP “astroturfing.” However, those on the left contact their friends in the media, post the event to MoveOn, Organizing for America, and blast e-mail to lists “scoured from the 2006 election.” How is that not astroturfing? What is so pathetic is even from a 2006 presidential victory campaign list, they still could not turn out massive numbers to overwhelm those who were there to oppose a healthcare reform agenda.
...#4. “Don’t call them….
How nice. However, Rachel Maddow first began calling conservatives who protested high taxes called them just that. It is an easy insult, and even the Howard Stern Show does not appear to use the term as loosely as Democratic web forums seem to these days.
#10. And then in opening remarks….
Meetings like this one continue a democratic tradition more than 2500 years old, that of the ancient Greek “Ecclesia.” The term means “those called out”—called out to discuss and decide civic matters, and to defend their ancient Greek city-states, to defend their democracy. And you all were called out by notices in the local papers, radio stations, by e-mail and internet, to discuss Health Care Reform and Clean Energy with our Representative tonight.
Hey wait…Mr. Briggs just violated lesson #4, and he insulted them in public to their face. Was Code Pink “thwarting and disrupting public discourse on civic matters” and were they “profoundly anti-democratic” when they disrupted General Patraeus’s hearing? By the way, is Mr. Briggs not giving a set of public instructions for those who organize town halls and agree with his positions?
#11. As it turned out, Rep. Visclosky took one look at the stack of about 100 index cards with questions, and decided to make some opening remarks, and then simply invite verbal questions from the floor, one-at-a-time. His approach worked very well.
Written questions? Such a strategy only invites further censorship from a congressman’s staffer. This strategy is very similar to what Rep. Keith Eliison (D-Ill.) did at his town hall
meeting recently. He had attendees ask questions one after the other in a bundle. Mr. Ellison would then choose which question of the buch he would answer. It is a political trick to pick and choose which questions to avoid answering in constituent forums like town halls.
After Congessman Visclosky was challenged on the constitutionality of the the healthcare bill, Mr. Briggs seems convinced in lesson #12 that:
“at these meetings, we should raise the point that the Preamble to the Constitution includes the phrase ‘promote the general welfare’ as one of its key organizing principles.”
“Promote the general welfare” is not the same as “guarantee the general welfare.” Moreover, the country was lucky enough to still have the Architect of the Constitution President James Madison around in 1817 to bust this myth, when the government tried to expand its powers then, and he vetoed a congressional measure
. Mr. Madison wrote the following excerpt to the House of Representatives on March 3, 1817:
The legislative powers vested in Congress are specified and enumerated in the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution, and it does not appear that the power proposed to be exercised by the bill is among the enumerated powers, or that it falls by any just interpretation with the power to make laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution those or other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States.
“The power to regulate commerce among the several States” can not include a power to construct roads and canals, and to improve the navigation of water courses in order to facilitate, promote, and secure such commerce without a latitude of construction departing from the ordinary import of the terms strengthened by the known inconveniences which doubtless led to the grant of this remedial power to Congress.
To refer the power in question to the clause “to provide for common defense and general welfare” would be contrary to the established and consistent rules of interpretation, as rendering the special and careful enumeration of powers which follow the clause nugatory and improper. Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms “common defense and general welfare” embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust.
Mr. Madison knew better and fought government that tried to use the “welfare” clause to bilk the public. Nice try, Mr. Briggs, but how can one not trust the person who was actually at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and had a major hand in the creation of our Constitution?
It is difficult to see how successful these so-called “lessons” are. Do proponents of the health care bill measure their success by limiting humiliating you tube videos? Apparently, the first batch of town hall videos have indeed struck a chord with not only Democrats but also Americans, as the number of those who favor the health care bill have dropped recently, and insulting those who are questioning his policies is not likely to help his numbers any.
Editor’s Note: Please go to the links to see full text of Kos Diary, as we needed to further edit the blog post down from the original version.