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Posted by wmmbb in Peace, US Politics.

The extraordinary thing about the behavior on display in the Congressional town hall meetings, is the failure of people to identify and align political interests.

Surely, working class people would be supportive of some system of universal health coverage? I suppose the disconnect might be due to the historical case that racial politics suppressed class politics. In Australia the working class was united by the White Australia Policy.

Whatever the failings of Australia following the abandonment of White Australia and the recognition of Aboriginal Land Rights, the United States has never squarely faced the legacy and barbarity of slavery or the dispossession of the Native Americans. There was principled opposition to slavery, illustrated by the underground railways. The United States never confronts its historical responsibility, and continues to be blind to the consequences of its actions. It launches from Vietnam to Afghanistan, via the continuing tragedy and obscenity of Iraq and Palestine.

So why should we expect a higher, more intelligent level of behavior of these poor dupes at the Town Halls? After all they are following the script written for them by their PR masterminds. Howard Dean, according to Sandy Leon Vest, published a leaked memo called “Rocking the Town Halls – Best Practices” with advice for aspiring activitists:

  • Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”
  • Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”
  • Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

That will work, and there will be no democratic discourse. Smokes were “the torches of freedom” – and that worked a treat. What risk political violence, especially if it can be manipulated by the person behind the curtain? In fairness to the corporate operators, there is serious money involved, and for them the issue is not civics but the bottom line.

The protesters are claim that they are not heard. They might be telling the truth. Our societies intimidate people from expressing their views. People are faced with structural violence, so they respond with physical violence. Happens all the time. Sometimes it is important to have alternative models of political behavior. Joan Baez, not just a singer in a rock and roll band, has an alternative way of dealing with people, by not dehumanizing them.

As a folk singer, Joan Baez is the singing the stuff of the plain folks, such as “the South will rise again” or not. Younger that now, here is Joan Baez singing, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”:


The  S-word in the American political lexicon does not stand for sanity, but rather for socialism, but does not apparently include socialism for the rich and the corporate endowments, who have powerful and active lobbies protecting them. The Realignment Project considers the prevailing state of affairs in “the land of the brave and home of the free”. They also undertake an examination of “understanding our own history” – something we could all do with.

Going back to the first sentence, Mellissa Harris-Lacewell describes the thesis of  Tali Mendelberg’s The Race Card. I had not thought of this before, but sometimes we think we are have a national debate, but what we are really doing is having parallel discussions with different audience cues setting off different responses and ideas of meaning.



1. stevenattewell - August 16, 2009

Hey, Steven Attewell from The Realignment Project.
Thanks for the promotion.

wmmbb - August 16, 2009

No problems Steven. I hope those you are interested go and visit your site.

2. euandus - November 4, 2009

I have been surprised by the lack of civil political discourse in some of the threaded discussions in the blogs. I suspect it might reflect the sort of people we are (i.e., in American society). Here is the post if you are interested: http://euandus3.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/are-the-american-people-really-like-mr-smith/

wmmbb - November 4, 2009

Thanks for the link euandus.

I put your link up on my other Duckpond(blogger). I will hope to keep an eye on your postings. I agree with the idea of system change, which will be mediated by personal change,cultural change and institutional change. The climate crisis challenges our systems and technology. Furthermore, I suggest the US, Australia, some of Europe are really prototypical global societies in part. Paradoxically as global society must be realized, so must local democracy.

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