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Wednesday evening at Drury Plaza in downtown St. Louis, Ed Martin gave a party aimed at drawing mainstream media. But the media stood him up–as did many of his own people. We didn’t stand him up though. At least seventy health care reform advocates attended his “Obamacare” hearing, outnumbering his own crowd. ACA proponents listened stone faced to Peter Kinder’s disembodied voice from Jeff City describing his heroic lawsuit; to Phyllis Schlafly’s tirade about what a vile socialist Obama is; and to Bill Hennessey, insisting that “Obamacare” is unconstitutional–though why, exactly, he didn’t explain. More in later postings about Schlafly and Hennessey.

As soon as the Q & A opened, Rea Kleeman was on her feet challenging Ms. Phyllis’s idea that health insurance accounts would be a better solution than the Affordable Care Act. Kleeman, who is an M.D., pointed out that such accounts don’t work because they require a thousand dollars to open one and because many people are too parsimonious to get the preventive care they need, thus opening themselves up to more serious expenses later. Unable to respond to Kleeman’s specific criticism, Schlafly repeated her canned speech and then blamed the fact that the accounts are ineffectual on Teddy Kennedy. Rea was just the opening salvo, though. Next came a soft spoken woman named Alice Sgroi, who gently blasted Mr. Hennessey out of the water and brought the house down.

By that point, the Ed folk had to know they were in for an earful. If they didn’t, the next speaker cinched it. A gentleman pointed out the hypocrisy of creating a Medicare Part D program where the government doesn’t negotiate for low prices, thus handing billions over to drug companies and costing people like him money. He laid out the excuses that Republicans have used to defend that smelly setup and, pointing at the panelists, wondered aloud “Where were you then?”

That brought us to break time. After a ten minute break, audience members were to be given two minutes mic time to express their concerns about health care reform. My understanding of a “hearing” is that the panelists speak, then listen to other testimony and respond. That didn’t happen. Schlafly evaporated; Hennessey and Martin stood in the back of the room for ten or fifteen minutes, often chit chatting; then Hennessey slipped out. After that, Martin murmured asides to the other suits in the back. Okay, so it wasn’t a hearing.

But Martin’s people, especially Bob, who was in charge of the mic, get credit where it’s due. They did let the left wingers speak. Frankly, I was shocked, because it is uncharacteristic of right wing politicians, in my experience. Left wingers let it rip. I attended those McCaskill town halls in the summer of 2009 where she was subjected to heckling and screaming from angry mobs. In Jefferson County, despite the coarse uproar from those yahoos, Claire put all the questions from the audience into a fishbowl and put two right wingers in charge of picking questions out of the bowl.

Contariwise, the only town hall Todd Akin ever was foolish enough to announce so that I could attend it, his media person tried valiantly to talk me out of coming. But I went, and what I filmed that day was totally scripted. Akin and Luetkemeyer took only the “questions” that fitted their agenda. When one gentlemen in the audience, tired of having no chance to speak, challenged a baldfaced lie, that man was escorted from the room.

So, Ed and Bob. You took me off guard. You said both sides could speak and … you actually allowed it. Bob handled the mic with fairness and good humor. The hard part for me, then, is picking and choosing who, of the many that spoke, I’ll include here. More left wingers spoke since there were more of them in the audience. I’m going to offer you a selection. Choose the ones that pique your interest, but I especially recommend the one about death panels–and be sure you see at least the first five seconds of “Generally confused”.

Oh, and you might want to check out the last video, where Martin reveals that he doesn’t understand the term “socialized medicine”.

A Martin supporter contends that death panels are rampant in countries with socialistic medicine.

LaDonna Appelbaum describes how health insurance companies made it virtually impossible for her to get health coverage for pregnancies.

A Martin supporter, after scornfully dismissing “these people”, seems confused about what she’s trying to prove–not to mention being hardhearted.

Judith Parker describes the worry her family endures over the possibility that her four year old granddaughter, who has cancer, would–were it not for health care reform–meet her lifetime caps very soon. The clip begins with a previous speaker talking about what “insurance” means and includes Parker’s response to that.

Fritzi Lainoff praises Medicare and, by extension, the idea of involving the government in our health care. A right winger objects to something Lainoff said and an interesting compromise ensues.

This young man sees the big picture.

This woman is angry that illegal immigrants get care that she has to pay for.

Bunnie Gronborg refutes the right wing canard that we’re getting socialized medicine. And she explains the billions that ACA will save the government.

Ed Martin disagrees with Gronborg. She tried to explain what “socialized medicine” means. Honest to god, he doesn’t seem to get the concept. Furthermore, he continues disputing the Congressional Budget Office’s prediction that ACA will save the government $143 billion over ten years.

I’m sure that we did little if anything to shift attitudes among the Tea Partiers at that event. But we lefties are delighted that we went. We were exhilarated by the show of strength and unity we mustered, by seeing how many well informed, well spoken people trekked to the Drury to defend the idea that health care corporations must no longer be allowed to hold us and this economy hostage. The worries about death panels from the other side were so small minded they were, really, pitiful. I’d be embarrassed if my confreres couldn’t do any better
than that.