Responding to raucous protests at so-called “town hall” meetings about health care reform organized by members of Congress, Democratic Party leaders Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer issued a statement declaring that, “These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American.” Are they right? Are these anti-reform protests “un-American”?
The answer is simple: No. Unless Hoyer and Pelosi can show that the protests are being organized by Australians, Asians, Europeans or Africans, their accusation is factually incorrect. As far as I know, the protests are conducted by Americans. Therefore, the protests are American, not unAmerican.
The underlying suggestion made by Pelosi and Hoyer, that disruptive protests are contrary to the American character, isn’t accurate either. Vigorous protest is central to the civic character of the USA. That’s why the rights of free speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition for redress of grievances are protected in the Bill of Rights. Our nation was founded through raucous protests. Loud protests are a core aspect of the American identity. I’d like to see more of them.
As for the complaint that the protesters are drowning out substantive discussions, well, that’s just not true. When protesters interfere with the operation of public meetings, they’re being escorted away or arrested for doing so. Free speech is protected, but free speech by some isn’t allowed to destroy others’ free speech and right to peaceably assemble.
So, the “town hall” meetings go on as before, after the shouting is done. No one is drowned out by these protests.
Not too long ago, when George W. Bush was President, Democratic voters were engaged in disruptive protests. I didn’t hear Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer calling those protests “un-American”. Why not?
I don’t agree with content of the anti-reform protests. However, I support the form of their protests. It’s unsettling to see the Democratic Party join the Republicans in their willingness to use the language of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House UnAmerican Activities Committee. It reinforces a growing perception that the Democratic Party lacks a consistent, systematic loyalty to the defense of constitutional rights. Increasingly, it seems that leading Democrats only rally behind the exercise of these rights when it’s politically convenient for them to do so.