“Voldemort Supports Your Protest”

Scenes from town hall craziness.

…was the best sign that I saw at Congressmember Adam Schiff’s health care town hall this evening in Alhambra, California. (Northeast of Los Angeles, a lovely suburb, but not as lovely as its namesake). I’d say that there were about 1,000 people there. A few random thoughts:

1. There are more of us, but they yell louder.

2. Josh’s correspondent is right: Schiff’s strategy of making it a panel discussion took the air out a little.

3. The antis all gathered together, and had their screaming points in order, but did not appear to me to be apparatchiks — anything but. Instead, it reminded me of a John Birch Society meeting. These are people who genuinely believe that health care reform means a fascist, or Nazi, or Communist, takeover of the country. And you would, too — if your only news source for the last 10 years was Fox, Limbaugh, Mike Savage etc.

4. One of their talking points is that on “Page 16” of the bill “states that if you have insurance at the time of the bill becoming law and change, you will be required to take a similar plan. If that is not available, you will be required to take the government option.” That, of course, is not true, and when one questioner alleged that it was, Schiff very nicely but firmly said that it was not true “and I have read the bill.”

I was standing next to the group, and said that this talking point was garbage. So one woman said, “Read the bill!” I responded, “I have! It’s not in there!” And then I said, “Show me where it says that.” And all she could say was “page 16” because that’s what their talking points say.

So I think that this could be a helpful strategy for future town halls. Bring copies of the House bill with you. When the crazies make an accusation about the bill, give them the bill, and say, “show me where it says that.” They won’t be able to. It won’t convince them, but it might shut them up for a while.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.