I went to a rally for health care reform in Green Bay WI a couple of days ago. Information was presented by several speakers and a couple of videos were shown. About a quarter of the people there were against health care reform. They sat through the rally, trying to look stern, and occasionally shouted "NO" when the cheers went up for "Health reform now!". They were clearly frustrated because they couldn't find openings to shout and disrupt the rally. When they shouted, a few people looked at them with bemusement, as people do when watching strange behavior. They will have better luck at a "listening" session that comes up next week.
I began to wonder if the people who shout, interrupt others, and come to town hall meetings to disrupt them are actually promoting health care reform. The public looks at these people through TV and by reading accounts and seeing pictures in newspapers, magazines and on the Internet. The people are invariable old, white, and grumpy. And when they shout at U.S. Congressmen... well, frankly they look like they have lost their mental bearings. These people come across as kooks. People who act and look like kooks make a big impression on others -- other people associate their views with kookiness too. So the end result is this -- the town hall disrupters are actually promoting health care reform by making the opposing view look bad!
Another way that town hall disrupters turn people against them is the fact that they are disrupting democracy itself. The purpose of the town hall meetings is to promote democracy in action. U.S. Congressmen go out to the people themselves and listen to their ideas. Everyone is supposed to get a chance to contribute. But the disrupters prevent this process from happening. In addition, they show great disrespect to elected officials by interrupting them and shouting at them. They already get a chance to speak, so this behavior is unnecessary.
I believe that the behavior of the town hall disrupters during August is the turning point of the health care reform bill. It has much more support now than before. The people who oppose health care reform are following the same trajectory of the McCain / Palin ticket in last years election. Palin's nasty attacking tactics first garnered support for the ticket, but that was followed by a steep drop, leaving McCain even further behind than he had been before Palin arrived on the scene. The same thing has happened to people who used anti-social tactics to try to prevent fair and affordable health insurance.