by David Glenn Cox
so it has come to this, an army of mercenaries, Bible thumpers and
right wing staffers invading town hall meetings trying to shout down
healthcare reform. The media on the left express outrage while the
media on the right play along with the gag. Have we all forgotten the
2000 election? The congressional staffers pounding on the doors while
the protesters with fresh-painted signs paraded out front.
the thirties, when Americans fought for labor rights, there were
bullyboys, thugs, stoolies and finks. Henry Ford had the lavatories
bugged and operated his own police force with scads of informers on his
payroll. These people attended union meetings and gave the bosses the
names of all those active in the union.
When needed, these
toughs would come out to the picket line and start trouble. If they
could start a fight then maybe the cops could haul everyone in and
break the picket line. That is how my grandfather got his head split
open, thugs trying to break a legal picket line while the cops assisted
It is important, however, that we view these new rabble
rousers like we would the first dry leaf of fall. They are a sign of
what is coming down the road and a sign of how serious the Republican
party and their clients, the healthcare industry, are about derailing
all of this.
This campaign is part theater but it is also part
intimidation. The intimidation is part of the theater because the
congressperson will quickly become frustrated trying to shout down a
mob. The mob, in turn, then tells the press, “He wouldn’t answer our
questions.” The flip side is to have the unruly removed or screened at
the door before entering. After all, if it’s a town hall meeting for
the Fifth District in New York and you’re from Ohio, it’s none of your
concern. Of course that would be met by chants of Nazi! Which would be
treated on Fox News as a Breaking News Alert!
In early union
halls members would stand up to propose a motion of support for
whatever was on the agenda and then a plant would stand ostensibly to
agree, and then add while we are at it how about a motion of support
for the Communist party! Which would be met by shouts and jeers and
maybe the guy would be thrown out of the meeting. If he was thrown out
the local headline would read “Union Meeting Broken Up by Disagreement
with Communist Hard-liner." If he wasn’t thrown out the headline would
read, "Union Hall Votes on Communist Resolution."
This is not
new and it will continue and we on the left should be ashamed of
ourselves for not doing it first. Not with thugs and bullyboys but with
you and me showing up at town hall meetings and asking pointed
questions of our Republican congresspeople and not letting them off the
hook with easy answers.
I once worked with a guy who was in
charge of getting out the Democratic vote in his ward in Chicago. When
the polls opened the Republican sheriff had placed police cars in the
parking lots in African-American precincts. His response was to hire
real gang members to hang out in the parking lots of the white
precincts. The message was clear and direct; you fight fire with fire.
You don’t back down and you don’t give up.
This is first and
foremost a media show about creating a ruckus for the benefit of the
camera. The mainstream media will never be on our side, but the camera,
despite their best efforts, will still sometimes show the truth. In
October of 1967, 50,000 people rallied at the Lincoln Memorial and
marched to the Pentagon against the war in Vietnam. No matter what the
media said, the sight of 50,000 people said more.
In August of
the following year, protesters disrupted the Democratic National
Convention in Chicago. In what was later ruled a police riot, the
protesters, through non-violence, prompted a violent reaction from the
police. Hubert Humphrey’s candidacy was toast and Mayor Daley was
toast, as well, but it inadvertently gave Nixon the White House and the
Vietnam War went on for four more years.
These are the cauldrons
of revolution from where chain reactions start and know not where they
will lead. Those who would try to intimidate you with a thought will
quickly move to sticks and then guns. Those who can be intimidated by a
mob of gray-haired, beer-gutted, Bible toting blue hairs need best to
stay home. You’re not needed.
Woody Allen once said, “In
Hollywood, 50% is just showing up.” In politics it is probably more
like 70%. Those that will fight and stand their ground and not let
themselves be intimidated by the fear something bad will happen will
soon find out that something good will happen. Imagine the busloads of
these charlatans met by two or three hundred lined up, arms crossed and
steely-eyed in the parking lot.
Suddenly they remember prayer
vigils they had promised to attend or maybe they forgot the question
that they were going to ask and maybe their ringleader gets shouted
down and they slink away. It is not pretty politics; it is practical
politics. The middle class has never been given anything in this
country without fighting for it. We are grossly outnumbered by ten of
millions of dollars. They own the newspapers and the cable news
networks. They can buy loyalty but that kind of loyalty can’t stand a
We have each other, and millions of each others, to
boot. This is where and how we fix democracy, where push comes to shove
both figuratively and literally. To not respond to a bully only makes
the bully bolder, but to punch a bully in the nose gives a release
denied even in prayer. My father used to say, “The right to swing your
arm ends at my nose” and sending out thugs, elderly or otherwise, to
break up public meetings is at my nose.