Right to Protest – Not to Drown Out

Ed Brayton has some good comments on the protests at town hall meetings:

On the subject of these protests, I say the same thing I’ve said many times before when the shoe was on the other foot, when the protesters were left wing and the speakers were right wing: You have a right to protest but you do not have a right to disrupt an event, drown out a speaker or prevent an event from taking place.

At the same time, I think Democrats have been too eager to paint such protesters with too broad a brush. It is undoubtedly true that there is some astroturfing going on, with large interest groups with a stake busing people around and making it look like a totally grassroots effort. It’s also obvious that some of the protesters are just plain nuts or too stupid to take seriously.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone who shows up at a townhall meeting to express their concerns or disagreements with the healthcare reform efforts is an idiot, or that they’ve been bought off to go there or bussed in some big group. There are legitimate reasons to question many provisions in the various healthcare reform bills in Congress and legitimate debate to be had on what the best way might be to reform the system.

Just so! Ed is pretty much equal opportunity in sticking it to the right, left, and center when he thinks they deserve it.

I would add that fake townhall meetings where questioners throw softballs to politicians they pretty much agree with are not conducive to the debate either. But it doesn’t seem to me like we are getting the kind of debate that is needed. Thus I would say that whether I like it or not, if people are ruled out by the politicians, they are likely to take their protests to the level of drowning out.

For example, who is inserting the supply issue into the debate, as in the supply of primary care. More nurse practitioners and a greater supply of physicians would also change the cost of health care, but I don’t hear much about that. It appears to me that we are again holding a debate within the constrained walls of the existing special interests, left and right, and not really looking at all potential solutions.

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