In the wake of passing Representative Paul Ryan’s budget plan, some members of Congress have hosted town hall meetings upon returning to their home districts. Slate’s David Weigel notes a curious lack of anger at these proceedings, particularly compared to the outrage over Obamacare which swept the nation during the August 2009 recess.
If the Ryan budget is so unpopular, where are the town-hall meltdowns?
The Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone takes a stab at the answer.
… One should note that there was some very loud—and violent and abusive—protest to Governor Scott Walker’s plans in Wisconsin. But organizing those protests was mostly the work of paid union staffers, not citizen volunteers, and the union folks were able to draw on street people/university town types who live in great numbers in Madison. The union folks, as Weigel notes, don’t seem to be sending people into town hall meetings.
If they were, it still wouldn’t impress as much as those angry constituents who were roused in droves to combat Obamacare. That’s because, as Barone points out, the ruckus at 2009 town halls was intrinsically motivated.
What would be the effect upon union protests if their staffers were no longer paid? How many protesters could they assemble without buses, signs, shirts, food, and other provisions funded from union coffers? When you have to spend your own money, and protest on your own time, the threshold to compel action is much higher.
That raises a question. What could motivate people more than getting paid? Try freedom.
Whether each Obamacare dissenter could articulate it or not, they shared an intrinsic sense that their individual liberty was threatened. Nationally syndicated radio talk show host and author of Power Divided Is Power Checked, Jason Lewis, explains why.
Minnesota [for instance] has been a bastion of [so-called] liberalism for years. We’ve got general medical assistance. We’ve got medical assistance, the Medicaid program. We’ve got MNCare. We’ve got three or four health care programs. We’ve got all sorts of redistribution schemes here. So do Massachusetts, New York, and California. While conservatives have lamented those things, there hasn’t been this sort of Tea Party uprising… Obamacare is different than MNCare because the feds are doing it.
When the federal government engages in these schemes, it presents a unique threat to liberty. The scope is national, inhibiting citizens ability to vote with their feet. As importantly, there are constitutional problems. The mandate of the federal government is significantly limited compared to the states. MNCare may be bad policy, but it falls within the plenary police power of a state. The feds have no such authority. Obamacare was and is a significant overstep, and constituents attending August 2009 town halls knew it.
It’s a general rule. Those protecting what’s theirs fight harder than those trying to take it. Obamacare dissenters had something working for them which government unions and other entitled constituencies never will – righteous indignation.