The panel on Fox News Sunday discussed the uproar over the town hall confrontations today.
Conservative columnist Steve Hayes actually said that he believed that the way these protests were being covered was currently helping the Democrats. That's because coverage of the protests changed the subject to the protests themselves as opposed to scrutiny of the health care bill. Hayes made the point that the public was rejecting the plan and that this change in subject helped because the public wasn't talking as much about the plan itself.
There is something to this argument. After all, the last few days, the media has been discussion such issues as: are these protestors organized by Republican forces, are they too violent, are they extremists or reflect the public's views. It's true, as Hayes points out, that the media hasn't been talking about the contents of the health care legislation as much over the last few days.
The protestors came to these town hall meetings to express their disapproval with the current health care proposals that has been moving through Congress. It would certainly be counter productive if their virulent disapproval turned the debate on them, moved the debate away from the proposals themselves, and gave cover to the Democrats.
I believe this argument has limited muscle. First, if you're trying to pass legislation, and you're helped because people stop talking about your legislation, that's itself a big problem. Second, and more importantly, these protests and the way they are covered are totally organic and fluid. No one controls them or the message they send. Today, people are talking about the protestors and the issue surrounding them. Tomorrow, everyone is talking about the message being sent by the protestors.
One thing is clear. This is the dominant story. That, ultimately, hurts the president and the health care proposal. One thing people aren't talking about are the millions of people that show up to town hall debates to support the plan. That's because those people aren't there. Beyond that, this story is interesting. This is a political, human interest, and policy story. Over the next month, it will get covered in detail from all angles. So, there will be plenty of time and coverage of the message of the protestors. The protestors have a plethora of problems with this bill: government control, rationing, costs, constitutionality, having it rammed through Congress, etc. Over the next month, all of these issues will have plenty of time for coverage, and the folks at these town halls will have their say on the matter.
The Democrats war with Tea Parties, the Tea Party goers at the town hall debates that is, is now the dominant story in the media. Having a party engage in a war with citizen activists is bad for said party. There's really no two ways to look at it. Temporarily, it might have moved the story away from a bill people hate more and more with each passing day. In the long run though, this is a story about millions of citizens upset and angry about a health care bill they don't want passed. As long as the story is about them, their voices will be heard. Their message is loud and it's clear. This bill is a monstrocity that will expand government control, lead to rationing, increase health care costs, and cut medical coverage for the elderly. Maybe not yet today or tomorrow, but that message will come through soon enough. Once it does, that will be the last nail in the coffin of the president's current health care reform.
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