Teabaggers and town halls

Asking a nasty question at a meeting is legitimate. Organized shouting to break it up is not.

I didn’t approve of Weimar politics when it was being practiced by the anti-war left, and I still don’t approve of it when it’s practiced from the right. Asking a rude question at an open meeting is fine; disrupting a meeting for the purpose of preventing people from talking to one another is not.

If reporters were less gullible or more interested in informing than in entertaining, they would report the story as “lunatics interfere with democratic process” rather than “citizens oppose health care reform.” And they might want to ask some questions about whether the same astroturf lobbying firms that are writing forged letters to Congressmen are also involved in organizing the disruptions.

If I were a Member of Congress threatened by this nonsense, I wouldn’t stop holding town meetings; I’d start out each meeting by welcoming my constituents and warning them that there’s an organized group in the hall planning to disrupt the proceedings. Never pass up an opportunity to portray your opponents as extremists, especially when they are.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com