Well, by golly... I went to my first Town Hall meeting this afternoon. The meeting was scheduled for 5:15pm, and people began arriving around 3pm, which I know because I took a motorcycle ride past the Ann Basker Auditorium at 3pm and there were two people already waiting. I returned there about 3:30 after ironing a collared shirt to wear, so I'd "look respectable". By the time 5:15 rolled around there must have been about 4oo people crowded outside that venue.
You may recall that I have mentioned before how these politicians seem to choose their venue carefully and based upon limited seating capacity, so they don't have to hear too many complaints about how Washington is ruining the country... well, today was no exception! The Ann Basker Auditorium seats (or did for this particular event, anyway) 140 people, when 3 blocks away there was the Grants Pass High School Performing Arts Center that has a capacity of several thousand people.
Defending Obamacare was Congressman Peter DeFazio (D - 4th District, OR), whose voting record is generally liberal, yet he didn't impress me as a radical left-wing nut job. In the past, DeFazio has shown flashes of courage and independence, by not always keeping in the prescribed "party lock-step" mode. "Perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer" (thank you Henry David Thoreau) sometimes. These actions are not so infrequent as to be called rare, really, but they are infrequent enough to enable him to avoid the label of "Blue Dog Democrat". ("Defending" may not be the right word to begin this paragraph with either. He pimped the party line, but he did so without great enthusiasm. My take was that he was beginning to lean in the direction of Obamacare, but that he lacked the moral conviction to commit his full energies to that bill.)
By now you're probably wondering to yourself, "Well?? How the hell did the Town Hall meeting go?" Prior to the meeting there were some lukewarm exchanges outside, but no fists were thrown, nor were people really "getting in each others face", nor were they raising their voices much above that volume necessary for normal conversation in a crowd of that size. All-in-all it was pretty boring outside. Once the doors opened there was a semi-uncomfortable rush to get inside, since they had announced how many seats were available just before they opened the doors to the auditorium. (Luckily, I was the tenth person in line and made it inside within the first 5 seconds after the doors opened. And yes, I did push past a couple of left-wing, union line jumpers to accomplish that feat.)
After everyone was seated and awaiting the arrival of Rep. DeFazio, there was a bit more of the "lukewarm" antagonism tossed back and forth between the liberal, left-wing "I want the Government to be my daddy and take care of me forever." crowd, and the conservative, right-wing "We want the Government to stay the hell out of our lives, to follow the Constitution, and to allow us access to what we need to take care of ourselves!" group. And again, nothing got out of control. There were several times one group or the other tried to shout down a speaker, but regained their composure and returned to acting as adults within 10 seconds or so. Feelings ran strong on both sides, but there were no physical confrontations at all, and the verbal confrontations (also called "disagreements") were of very limited duration, and only at a slightly elevated volume. I believe there was an unplanned balance in the attendance, and it seemed that the number of people either for or against Obamacare was about even. There are certain media outlets that are claiming the Obama administration has "plants" in the audience of the Town Hall meetings, and that may be true to some small degree, but I believe the left - at least at our Town Hall meeting - was primarily represented by genuinely concerned citizens... as was the conservative right. BUT - those so-called "Town Hall Meetings" at which Obama appears are another story entirely. Of course they will be stacked with Obama supporters! What good politician (isn't that an oxymoron?) who is pimping his pet project wouldn't want to be seen on national TV with maximum support if he could arrange it? And, since the Secret Service provides the entry control at any Presidential event, they determine who gets inside and who doesn't. If you don't know the "secret handshake" (which would literally be something like having an invitation or your name on a guest list) you don't get in. Wearing a T-shirt that reflects conservative values, or if it displays any message that is contrary to Obama's socialist plans is also enough to keep you out.
According to plan, Representative DeFazio was Mr. Punctuality and arrived at precisely 5:15pm, and he departed at 6:16pm ( I won't fault him for a 1 minute overrun, but I will report it because it was so close to being perfect timing). The Josephine County Sheriff attended in his official capacity, along with a Deputy and two Grants Pass City Officers. DeFazio had a good handle on the subject matter (even if it was replete with party propaganda), and had obviously "done his homework". He even claimed to have read the entire 1108 page bill!
There were the usual concerns on each side - National health care vs private insurance; "How old will the government let me live to be"; and, "Where's the money coming from for this program?", etc. The only question he really dodged was, "IF Obamacare is so good, why aren't the House, Senate and Executive branch using it instead of just the rest of the citizens... why do YOU need gold plated health care?"
Did I come away from the Town Hall meeting feeling that I had learned anything new, or was inclined to change my mind about how I felt? No. Did I feel more comfortable about the ever-increasing role of our ever-expanding Government in our lives? Not a bit. Did I feel as if I had just wasted an hour of my life? Not exactly... it could have been more enlightening, but it wasn't exactly a Black Hole in my life either. Besides, anybody that goes to a meeting with any politician, and expects to come away from that meeting with a different understanding or perspective is going to be sorely disappointed.
I'm certain there are others who were in attendance, and heard the same words I heard - but carrying a totally different message than the one I heard - that felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted from their shoulders by Rep. DeFazio. I am equally certain there were those who left the meeting feeling as if the weight of the world had doubled in just 61 short minutes. And then there were the rest of us...
There's no way I could be wrong about this, since it is my perception of what I experienced this afternoon. So, neener-neener-neener to those of you who may think I am wrong!