That's not exactly a rhetorical question. I actually support a good deal of the methods used by the Tea Party people who've been such a disruptive force at congressional town hall meetings around the country, including Philadelphia, on the health care issue. Organizing folks and getting them to turn out for a political event, and then asking pointed questions of elected officials -- all good stuff. Encouraging tactics that are clearly disruptive -- including shouting down people when they try to speak? That's not very democratic at all, is it?
Below you can see a video of the crowd here in Philly yesterday that gave a rough time to Sen. Arlen Specter and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Meanwhile, the crowd at a Rep. Patrick Murphy event in Bucks County was also pretty rambunctious:
Murphy's about-face (in his opening remarks, he specifically told a woman "this was not a town hall meeting") resulted in a 90-plus-minute, frequently contentious Q&A session with voters clearly emotional about health care. But the congressman kept his cool, listening to people's concerns and defending his plans while occasionally asking hecklers "to be respectful."
With Congress about to go on a long summer break, these town hall meetings are going to be the only game in town, and supporters of the status quo know that all too well. It will be interesting to see if 40 loud people in a room, backed by well-funded lobbying groups, can thwart the broader will of the American people, who have repeatedly voiced support for a government option in health insurance.
And if they do...is that what we call democracy?