When handfuls of Code Pink ladies disrupted congressional hearings or speeches by BushIn those nightmare days of the Bush presidency, it was considered perfectly fine for organizations such as ACORN or unions to organize people to turn out in protest against Bush policies. Now, if word is sent out via the internet to organize turnout, it's just considered fakery and the protesters' complaints worth nothing.
administration officials, it was taken as evidence that the administration's policies were unpopular, and that the thinking parts of the populace were rising up in true democratic fashion.
Even disruptive tactics aimed at blocking President Bush's Social Security reform program were merely seen as evidence of boisterous high spirits and robust, wide-open debate. On May 23, 2005, the Savannah Morning News reported:
“By now, Jack Kingston is used to shouted questions, interruptions and boos. Republican congressmen expect such responses these days when they meet with constituents about President Bush's proposal to overhaul Social Security.
“Tinkering with the system is always controversial. To make Bush's plan even more so -- political foes are sending people to Social Security forums armed with hostile questions.
By now, Kingston, a Savannah lawmaker and part of the GOP House leadership, has held 10 such sessions and plans at least seven more.”
On March 16, USA Today reported that Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum "was among dozens of members of Congress who ran gantlets of demonstrators and shouted over hecklers at Social Security events last month. Many who showed up to protest were alerted by e-mails and bused in by anti-Bush organizations such as MoveOn.org and USAction, a liberal advocacy group. They came with prepared questions and instructions on how to confront lawmakers."
This was just good, boisterous politics: "Robust, wide-open debate." But when it happens to Democrats, it's something different: A threat to democracy, a sign of incipient fascism, and an opportunity to set up a (possibly illegal) White House "snitch line" where people are encouraged to report "fishy" statements to the authorities.
More significantly, most of these people are turning out to protest for the first time in their lives, and they're planning for future political involvement in years to come. Perhaps that's what's got the critics worried.Conservatives, myself included, have been having a lot of fun with the Democrats' dismay at people speaking their minds at townhalls or taking to the streets to protest the growth of the federal government that we've been witnessing in recent years. While I condemn any of the extremes that a handful of individuals have gone to with lynching profiles, threats of violence, or shouting down congressmen and preventing them from answering questions, there still is a lot of irony in those people who praised community organizers a few months ago now getting their panties in a wad about senior citizens showing up to complain about the Democrats' health care plans.
It's true, of course, that conservative and libertarian organizations -- ranging from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's American Solutions to FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity -- are getting involved and providing advice and support, just as numerous lefty groups have always done with left-leaning movements.
But, as I noted in an April 15 column in The Wall Street Journal, those groups were playing catch-up to a movement that was already rolling on its own.
The truth is that for my adult lifetime, "protest" has been a kind of Kabuki engaged in by organized groups on the Left with help from the press -- as in the recent bus tour of AIG executives that was organized and paid for by an ACORN affiliate and in which the protesters were heavily outnumbered by the media, who nonetheless generally treated it as an "authentic" expression of populist discontent.
Things like that tour led President Obama to warn bankers that he was the only thing standing between them and the pitchforks, one of a number of thuggish statements he's made along these lines. (links in original)
As always, Mark Steyn has more fun than anyone in ridiculing this sudden dismay at community organizing.
DISSENT IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF PATRIOTI… No, wait, that bumper sticker expired January 20th. Under the stimulus bill, there's a new $1.3 trillion bills-for-bumpers program whereby, if you peel off old slogans now recognized as environmentally harmful ("QUESTION AUTHORITY"), you can trade them in for a new "CELEBRATE CONFORMITY" sticker, complete with a holographic image of President Obama that never takes his eyes off you.Oops. Perhaps the Emperor does indeed have no clothes and that is why those who point it out must be demonized as being too fashion conscious.
"The right-wing extremist Republican base is back!" warns the Democratic National Committee. These right-wing extremists have been given their marching orders by their masters: They've been directed to show up at "thousands of events," told to "organize," "knock on doors" …
No, wait. My mistake. That's the e-mail I got from Mitch Stewart, Director of "Organizing for America" at BarackObama.com. But that's the good kind of "organizing." Obama's a community organizer. We're the community. He organizes us. What part of that don't you get?
When the community starts organizing against the organizer, the whole rigmarole goes to hell. Not that these extremists showing up at town hall meetings are real members of the "community." Have you noticed how tailored they are? Dissent is now the haut est form of coutur ism. Senator Barbara Boxer has denounced dissenters from Obama's health care proposals as too "well-dressed" to be genuine. Only the Emperor has new clothes. Everyone knows that.