What I Saw at a Health Care Forum

I urge members of the Obama administration to step off the health care stage and into the crowd, that “angry mob" they refer to is a growing number of Americans who want to slow down and take part in the health care debate.  One step off the podium will show them this is anything but an “astroturf effort."  This is zoyzia, it's real, it's hearty, and can tolerate the heat.

This week the chairman of the Blue Dog Democrats health care task force, Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) along with  Rep. Vic Snyder (D-Ark.) faced some harsh critics at a health care forum in Arkansas.  Passionate voters said Washington has turned a deaf ear for too long, and they're forced to turn up the volume.

Critics shouted their concerns about losing control of their health care choices. One urged Congress to vote down any public option health plan, saying “we need to open it up to the free market and get the government the hell out of it."

Over the past week, members of Congress have faced  heated protests from New York to the City of Brotherly love from Connecticut to the Lone Star State.  Democrats dismiss these confrontations as feigned outrage, saying politicians are being heckled by tea-baggers and angry Republicans.

While there are members of groups such as the TEA Party, Americans for Prosperity, Campaign for Liberty, Conservatives for Patients' Rights, and Freedom Works at these events, they are by no means the majority.

Most town hall attendees are hard working, freedom loving people who say they're scared at the prospect of a government run health care.  These are people who have taken the time to read the 1,000+ page health care bill and don't like what they see.  They are common sense people who say if it's good enough for us, it should be good enough for our elected officials.

These are not rabid extremists' who are trying to de-rail health care reform, they are offering solutions.  Constituents are telling their Congressmen any health care plan must be deficit neutral, allow patients to choose their doctors, include tort reform, wipe out waste and fraud in the current system, place a greater emphasis on patient improvement, and health care plans must be portable.

In a video released by the Democratic National Committee, they attribute town hall turnouts to “desperate Republicans and their well-funded allies" who are out to “destroy President Obama."

Well-funded allies?

This forum included a soccer mom who was concerned about health care for her four children if her husband lost his job, a small business owner who would be unable to compete with a taxpayer-funded public option, and a grandmother who questioned why she would have to change the coverage she needs to pay for coverage someone else doesn't want.

Obama Spokesman Robert Gibbs refers to the critics as "Brooks Brothers Brigade" who blanketed Florida after the 2000 presidential election.  He encouraged people to “take a jaundiced eye to what is clearly the AstroTurf nature of so-called grassroots lobbying."

In a fundraising e-mail, former President Bill Clinton called out Republicans for efforts behind what he calls “the most powerful special interests in Washington who've launched a furious campaign to preserve the status quo."

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said nothing could be further from the truth.

“We're not inciting anyone to go out and disrupt anything," said Steele. Ã¢â‚¬Å“To sit back and say this is a Republican cabal is a bunch of baloney."

I find it interesting that Democrats have also gone after these conservative political groups for posting times and locations of town hall forums on their Web sites, and encouraging people to attend.  The president has done the same thing.

In an e-mail to 13 million people, the president encouraged supporters to commit to attending at least one health care event this month in support of his plan.  “This is the moment our movement was built for," President Obama wrote.

Actually, Mr. President, this is the moment our country was built for.  A time for all Americans to stand up for what they believe in.  A time for our leaders to listen.

There's nothing artificial about that.

Alice Stewart is a Political Consultant and Journalist.  For more information, please go to www.alicestewart.com