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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Hayden Duke | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Edward Lulie III | Cindy A. Rose | Richard B. Weldon Jr. | Brooke Winn |


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August 10, 2009

Defining Activism

Richard B. Weldon Jr., that bastion of liberal thinking, is now in the business of defining speech. They’ve always considered themselves better than everyone else, now they’re defining by just how much they are better.


During the term of George W. Bush, MoveOn was frequently busy rallying the progressive movement to oppose the administration, from writing editorial letters to showing up at public gatherings in order to embarrass the president or his surrogates.


They were good at it, too. News broadcasts often highlighted the “stand up and shout” moment, with some of the audience members dressed in disguise in order to gain the coveted moment in the spotlight. MoveOn would then feature these people on their website.


Think back to the Iraq War. MoveOn, and any number of progressive mouthpiece organizations, used every media outlet available to spread propaganda and opinion – some true, some not. The truth was never the objective; the objective was to sway public opinion by any means possible.


Spin the clock ahead to the Obama Administration. Now we have a publically funded and government mandated health care proposal on the table, something that MoveOn has been pushing since the organization’s creation.


Forcing Americans, many very satisfied with their private health insurance, to consider a much more complicated and broader public solution for everyone else is a tricky matter. MoveOn never cared about that aspect, though. To them, and many other progressives, the price paid by some in order to benefit all is of little consequence.


You might think, given their history, that MoveOn would celebrate the right of everyday citizens to use their voice to question and criticize their leaders. Not so! MoveOn reserves the right to support only that criticism that endorses their positions and hand-picked politicians.


As Congress adjourns for their August recess (the whole month, what a deal), our federal legislators are returning to their districts to talk to their constituents. In past years, that meant canned speeches and small gatherings where the congressman or woman extolled how hard they just been working on behalf of those voters.


These tours normally include the distribution of some checks at fire halls and a ribbon cutting or two, but certainly no confrontations or controversy. This year’s recess is a whole different animal.


Everywhere our esteemed representatives and senators go, they’re facing a roomful of angry voters, all furious about the possibility of a major healthcare reform proposal being stuffed down their throat without the courtesy of time spent vetting and understanding what this will actually do. They’re angry about adding to the already unsustainable budget deficit, and they’re really angry about the loss of personal control over choices and priorities in healthcare.


From veteran’s halls to fire halls, the people are making their voices heard. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was shouted down as she tried to tell a group they didn’t know what they were talking about. Maryland Congressman and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was called a liar by a guy who came to a meeting armed with facts, not opinion.


Against this backdrop of angry and suspicious voters, MoveOn has determined that the national Republican Party, the insurance industry, and fringe conservative groups are behind this sudden uprising. No proof of this overarching conspiracy, mind you. They make the assumption that if anyone out there doesn’t believe our vaunted congressional majority and president, they must be driven to that position by the national GOP and Rush Limbaugh.


MoveOn uses lowest common denominators to define their enemies. They’ve seized on what they call “birthers,” a group of conspiracy theorists who believe President Barack Obama wasn’t born on American soil. Without regard to their claim (I happen to think the “birthers” are wrong), MoveOn knows that if they can make this about fringe groups, it will diminish the message of legitimate voices.


Unfortunately, MoveOn seems to be as wrong about this conspiracy as they are about most progressive policy initiatives. At least two of the most vocal challengers featured on national news broadcasts self-identified as Democrats! One even said she voted for President Obama.


Here’s the truth. Without a doubt, conservative talk radio fuels the fire already smoldering within the hearts and minds of their regular listeners. Fox News channel’s evening lineup of Beck, O’Reilly, and Hannity surely cause some people to write, call, or fax their congressional representatives about the dangers of socializing healthcare. This movement is much bigger than that!


The fact is that most people are deeply concerned about a bill as complicated as this which is being rushed through under an artificial timeframe. It doesn’t take a talk show to build fear in people’s minds when their leaders talk about denying care based on age, or having a government bureaucrat decide if a particular treatment is warranted, or seeing the long delays and treatment denials in Canada and European countries that have socialized medicine in place.


My personal favorite comment came from the gent who skewered Steny Hoyer. He responded to Hoyer’s dismissive retort by expressing concern that the president spent more time trying to settle on a breed of dog for his family than Congress has invested digesting this incredibly complex proposal.


Frankly, I’d prefer the dog over the healthcare reform plan! At least the dog can be trained to fetch a paper. The current healthcare reform bill just needs to be wrapped in paper before being disposed of.


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