More on That Pesky Dissent
A sort-of follow up on a previous post courtesy of Glenn Reynolds:
When handfuls of Code Pink ladies disrupted congressional hearings or speeches by Bush administration officials, it was taken as evidence that the administration's policies were unpopular, and that the thinking parts of the populace were rising up in true democratic fashion.
Even disruptive tactics aimed at blocking President Bush's Social Security reform program were merely seen as evidence of boisterous high spirits and robust, wide-open debate. On May 23, 2005, the Savannah Morning News reported:
“By now, Jack Kingston is used to shouted questions, interruptions and boos. Republican congressmen expect such responses these days when they meet with constituents about President Bush's proposal to overhaul Social Security.“Tinkering with the system is always controversial. To make Bush's plan even more so -- political foes are sending people to Social Security forums armed with hostile questions.
By now, Kingston, a Savannah lawmaker and part of the GOP House leadership, has held 10 such sessions and plans at least seven more.”
On March 16, USA Today reported that Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum "was among dozens of members of Congress who ran gantlets of demonstrators and shouted over hecklers at Social Security events last month. Many who showed up to protest were alerted by e-mails and bused in by anti-Bush organizations such as MoveOn.org and USAction, a liberal advocacy group. They came with prepared questions and instructions on how to confront lawmakers."
This was just good, boisterous politics: "Robust, wide-open debate." But when it happens to Democrats, it's something different: A threat to democracy, a sign of incipient fascism, and an opportunity to set up a (possibly illegal) White House "snitch line" where people are encouraged to report "fishy" statements to the authorities.
It's true, of course, that conservative and libertarian organizations -- ranging from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's American Solutions to FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity -- are getting involved and providing advice and support, just as numerous lefty groups have always done with left-leaning movements.But, as I noted in an April 15 column in The Wall Street Journal, those groups were playing catch-up to a movement that was already rolling on its own.
The truth is that for my adult lifetime, "protest" has been a kind of Kabuki engaged in by organized groups on the Left with help from the press -- as in the recent bus tour of AIG executives that was organized and paid for by an ACORN affiliate and in which the protesters were heavily outnumbered by the media, who nonetheless generally treated it as an "authentic" expression of populist discontent.
Read it all here.