Tea and Astroturf

From Nancy Pelosi, to Paul Krugman and on, there has been a steady drumbeat of accusations this summer from defenders of the “big government solution” side of the health care debate that the “town hall” and “TEA Party” protests against members of congress are organized by insurance companies, the Republican Party and various other so-called “Astroturf” agitators who don’t represent “normal” Americans. If one actually attends these events (as I have) the absurdity of this allegation becomes abundantly clear. The attendees, if anything, are apt to get MORE angry at the Republicans who started us down the “Bailout Nation” path during the previous presidential administration. Consider, as just one example, the reception that Texas Sen. Jon Cornyn received on July 4 when he tried to speak to a TEA Party gathering in Austin:

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Cornyn was booed at the start and close of his remarks, which assailed actions in Washington; there were no boos while he awarded a Purple Heart to a Copperas Cove resident injured in Iraq in 2006.

“You’re the problem,” a crowd member hollered.

Another crowd member yelled that Cornyn voted for the initial federal bailout of Wall Street approved by Congress last year, the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

But that’s not to say that “Astroturfing” doesn’t happen, or that wild-eyed partisans don’t contort themselves into comical rhetorical pretzels as a way of covering it up. Consider this blog post that went up yesterday at the Blogging for Michigan website. I include it in its entirety…

McCotter Spokesperson: "You Get Extremes At Town Halls"

by: wizardkitten

Thu Sep 03, 2009 at 13:54:48 PM EDT

 In an attempt to dodge his constituents, the Thadder ends up dissin' the teabaggers. Shoe, meet the other foot.  

About 150 plan to protest at Congressman Thaddeus McCotter's Livonia district office at 3 p.m. today because he has not held a town hall forum on health care during the August recess.

"All of us have called and e-mailed, and we have not been able to get any satisfaction," said Scott Craig of Northville. "Most of us have not been able to have meetings with staff people. (McCotter) seems to know how we think on this issue already."

McCotter spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said the Republican Congressman has had telephone town halls, reaching thousands of people rather than hundreds.

And the money quote... drum roll please...

"You get extremes at town halls, and normal people are not heard," she said.

Hear that, teabaggers? It's the sound of McCotter throwing you under the bus. You're not "normal people".

Glad we have that all cleared up.  

As used by this writer, “cleared up” is apparently a euphemism for “the entire basis of my argument rests upon omitting the following critical fact from the Detroit News story that is hyperlinked in the post's first sentence":

The protest was organized by Organizing for America, a grassroots project of the Democratic National Committee, said Alec Gerlach, regional press secretary for the DNC.

Similar protests were planned today at Vernon Ehler's Grand Rapids office and tomorrow at Congressman Mike Rogers' Lansing office and Congressman Fred Upton's Kalamazoo office.

"It's a three-day slam hitting mostly Republicans who didn't hold town hall forums to let them known they have constituents supportive of the president's health care reform," Gerlach said.

It’s hard to imagine getting more “Astroturf” than having an official press secretary for one of the major political parties doing the PR work for the “grassroots project” AND acknowledging that the grassroots project and its work are all tied directly to the political party’s national committee. If the “Astroturf” pejorative has any meaning at all, then this would appear to be it.

So, McCotter’s spokesperson putting down the lack of “normal” people showing up at these events was inserted AFTER the admission that political party hacks from the DNC had deliberately organized the protest outside his office that day. How that gets connected back to TEA Party people showing up on their own is a convolution that only the “wizards” at Blogging for Michigan can explain.

Leaving aside this blogger’s blatant mischaracterization of what took place, there’s nothing inherently off-base with the DNC calling out GOP members of Congress for hiding behind their telephones. Presumably, these long summer breaks are there so that members of Congress from both parties can interact with real Americans… like the ones who booed Sen. Cornyn in Austin. That’s the kind of “checks and balances” that political parties are supposed to provide against each other, even if calling it “grass roots” in this instance is all marketing and no substance.