Monday, August 31, 2009

So Let the Sideshow Begin

They even sold popcorn.This way to the big top.

I went to one of Representative Jay Inslee's town hall meetings over this past weekend. It was, as I expected, a circus part of the time. Both sides came with their minds made up, and while it didn't degenerate into both sides shouting at each other, there was a lot of shouting. There were several occasions where the anti-reform bill crowd burst into calls of "Liar!" Some of them shouted it, and some of them screamed it, but all of them had, apparently, decided that whenever Representative Inslee said something that they didn't appreciate, that he must be lying. Interestingly, really loud outbursts while someone was speaking to the Representative spurred the crowd into a collective "shush," that continued until the disturbance abated.

Of course, the anti-reform bill section of the audience was not a unified as Congressional critics of the plan would like us to believe. Their objections were all over the map, and this meant that some of them were mutually exclusive. To wit, what one critic called a potential unintended consequence of the plan, another critic termed an intentional hidden agenda, and so on. Of course, by the same token, the pro-reform bill crowd wasn't particularly unified either, and there were clearly a number of people who didn't feel the plans currently on the table went far enough.

In the end, Representative Inslee had some good information, but not very much of it (he only spoke for 15 minutes). The question-and-answer session that followed was, predictably, dominated by political talking points thinly disguised as questions. But there were some good ones that focused squarely on the topic at hand, and carried no ideological baggage. Maybe it's telling that I can only remember one of them, even though I'm pretty sure there were two or three. A young woman asked, if one were denied coverage for a given procedure, they could simply pay for it themselves out of pocket. (Apparently, in Canada and the U.K., you can't.) While she prefaced it with a story about her husband, she didn't slant the question one way or another.

Representative Jay Inslee.Representative Inslee answering a question.

The strangest part of the whole scene was the "March of Signs" (Hey, it's a good a name as any.), that started about 20 minutes before things actually got going. People would take their signs, and walk around the room holding them up, to the cheers or jeers of the crowd. It was one at a time at first, but then people started going two or three at a time, both sides jumbled together, and things became really raucous.

I made this myself!They may as well have simply read "Applause."

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