The doors didn’t open till six at Russ Carnahan’s Thursday evening forum on aging, and the event didn’t start until seven. But by 5:30, the parking lot was full and the pictures show you the line at quarter till six. People weren’t there to hear about how to take care of their aging parents. Believe it. The word was out that right wingers were going to do everything possible to disrupt this Democratic event, so Democrats turned out in full measure to balance the crowd.
Both sides were itching to go, and Archpundit has video of the doings outside while people waited.
Inside, this event didn’t exactly fit the Americans for Prosperity playbook, because a large section of the room was reserved for those who had rsvped, i.e. Democrats, so the right wingers were mostly bunched together instead of dispersed, a la the plan. But mostly the forum frustrated the wingers because it wasn’t about health care. It wasn’t meant to be. Five of the six speakers didn’t mention health care at all. They explained how to use the Medicare website to figure out which prescription drug plan makes the most sense or how Meals on Wheels works.
Only Ron Sergent of AARP, the first speaker, openly advocated for health insurance reform. You want to see how these town halls will develop when Democrats show up in equal numbers and try to shush the loudmouths? Take a look.
With only five minutes worth of talk the wingers didn’t want to hear, the Carnahan event was tame. McCaskill’s Kitchen Table Talks will be a lot uglier. Even if she wanted to, I don’t know if she could effectively set ground rules for behavior that will get people escorted from the room, because usually people shout and then shut up. It’s hard to locate them. And besides, taking some of them out of the room might cause a riot.
Anyway, after Sergent, there was little for the wingnuts to hang their anger on. The crowd sat through an hour of what they didn’t come for: information on aging. The teabaggers behaved like the bad kids at a middle school assembly. The Democrats tried to hush them up, with some of them occasionally losing their temper about it.
I was disgusted, though, to open the P-D this morning and find that six people had been arrested last night after the event, and at least two of them were pro-reform advocates. One of them, Brian Matthews, had sat behind me and had been, I thought, a little too eager to rev up the hostility a notch. His account of what happened is in the Post this morning. He says he was pretty much an innocent bystander. His friend, Javonne Spitz, was also arrested, and the word I get from others who attended is that she was too vocal before the event started and that pro-reform people had asked her to leave.
I wasn’t there when the two of them were arrested. Maybe they were pure as the driven snow. I can’t say for sure. But somebody on our side needed arresting because a conservative handing out “Don’t tread on me” fliers ended up in the emergency room with “injuries to his knee, back, elbow, shoulder and face.”
I learned a little something from that P-D article: Oh sure, I expect weird, rude behavior from a high percentage of the teabaggers. In fact, a Post-Dispatch editorial writer who was there couldn’t help but notice how “poisonous” their behavior was. On the other hand, I can’t overlook it on our side. Next time I see one of our own enjoying the battle too much, I’ll say something.
There are hotheads on both sides of every argument, but it’s imperative that we be the calm ones. Every one of us. That’s the word that needs to go out before next Tuesday. Let the teabaggers act up on camera like thirteen year old boys. We can’t shut them up anyway. We can only try to keep our own folks in line.