STATEMENT BY AFL-CIO SECRETARY TREASURER RICHARD TRUMKAA couple of points by way of explanation.
ON CORPORATE FUNDED *MOB RULE* AT TOWN HALLS
August 6, 2009
Every American has the inalienable right to participate in our democratic process. Our politics is passionate, heartfelt and often loud -- as was the founding of our nation. But that is not what the corporate-funded mobs are engaging in when they show up to disrupt town halls held by members of Congress.
Major health care reform is closer than ever to passage and it is no secret that special interests want to weaken or block it. These mobs are not there to participate. As their own strategy memo states, they have been sent by their corporate and lobbyist bankrollers to disrupt, heckle and block meaningful debate. This is a desperation move, meant to slow the momentum for change.
Mob rule is not democracy. People have a democratic right to express themselves and our elected leaders have a right to hear from their constituents -- not organized thugs whose sole purpose is to shut down the conversation and attempt to scare our leaders into inaction.
We call on the insurance companies, the lobbyists and the Republican leaders who are cheering them on to halt these *Brooks Brothers Riot* tactics. Health care is a crucial issue and everyone - on all sides of the issue - deserves to be heard.
First, the "Brooks Brothers riots" that Rich mentioned refers to the November 19, 2000, demonstration organized by the GOP to shut down the hand recount of the contested Florida presidential election. Scores of young Republicans descended on South Florida to intimidate the election canvassers, and some overzealous demonstrators even pursued the chairman of the Dade County Democratic Party, who had to be escorted to his car by the Miami-Dade police. That particular incident prompted Jerrold Nadler, a New York congressman to say that he "dectected a whiff of fascism."
That astroturf action was well documented in the newspapers at the time, including the fact that many of the protestors were actually young Hill staffers. In fact, I later got to know one of them on a professional basis. She worked for John Kasich, who is now running for governor of Ohio.
To return to the point of this post, I would be the first to actually encourage those who have doubts, objections, and criticisms of health care reform to attend town hall meetings with their representatives. It is the right and duty of every citizen to participate in the democratic process. That's especially true for the loyal opposition. Of course, they should be there to dialogue with their representatives and fellow citizens.
What many of us are objecting to, however, is a well-funded, organized attempt to disrupt, shout down, and heckle elected officials and intimidate their fellow citizens with whom they might disagree. That's not democracy. That's one step away from a Beer Hall Putsch.