Nervous About Health Care, Tea Partiers Look to 2010

By
Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 7:04 pm
Connecticut resident Tom Hill poses with a homemade sign. (Photo by David Weigel)

Connecticut resident Tom Hill poses with a homemade sign. The other side featured a health care message for Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). (Photo by David Weigel)

Tom Hill’s massive sign–a white sheet taped onto a fishing pole–said it all. On one side, in thin black letters, Hill had written “STAND FIRM WITH JOE,” a call for solidarity with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). When Hill–who lives in Connecticut–had written that, he thought Lieberman was going to block the Senate version of health care reform. Then, shortly before the 1:30 p.m. anti-health care reform rally outside of the Senate, Hill found out that Lieberman’s objection to Medicare expansion had been answered, and the bill would get his support. He crossed out his old letters and wrote “JOE’S A SKUNK! CAVED IN TO PRESSURE.”

“They put pressure on his wife, and he loves his wife, and he’s not much into the politics of personal destruction,” said Hill, looking grim. “Sixty votes doesn’t frickin’ matter. They’re gonna do it with 51. Here’s the deal–they’re either gonna shove it down our throats with 60 or up our butts with 51.”

[GOP]Around 3,000 conservative activists spent Tuesday on Capitol Hill, jamming into the offices of their senators–occasionally getting lengthy, friendly meetings with Republicans–and crowding outside the Senate for a rally sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, and numerous Tea Party groups. Many had taken buses from states like North Carolina and Georgia. The crowd was as punchy, as high-stakes in its rhetoric, as it had been any of the anti-spending, anti-Democratic Party events that have defined 2009 for conservatives. It was home, however, to some real pessimism about whether opponents of a health care reform bill could really stop the legislation. Optimism inside the Capitol and at the “Code Red” rally focused instead on the 2010 midterm elections, and the chance conservatives will have to punish the Democrats.

Anger at Lieberman–seen by Tea Party activists as much as liberals as an unpredictable actor whose decisions will make or break reform–was universal. After objecting to a public option, then a Medicare expansion, on Tuesday Lieberman signaled that he would support  a bill that lacked those features. From the stage of the “Code Red” rally, Tea Party Patriots leaders Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler reported that they had tried to park themselves in Lieberman’s office until the senator showed up.

“They told us he was unavailable, and we said ‘That’s okay, we’ll wait,’” said Meckler. “And after about three minutes the staffer came out and said, ‘You’re going to have to leave. And we said, ‘This is a public office!’ And they said, ‘You’re going to have to leave, or we’re going to have you arrested.’” The crowd–which included one activist holding a sign that asked Lieberman to “be a mensch and vote against the government takeover of health care”–booed lustily at this story of petty tyranny.

“What do you think of American citizens threatened with arrest for visiting Senator Lieberman’s office?” asked Meckler. “What do you think of your representatives threatening to arrest American citizens while bringing terrorists onto American soil? Those senators are terrorizing American citizens!”

Meckler’s story, and the crowd’s reaction, was a far cry from the attitude that had opened the day. The 8:45 a.m. start of office-to-office lobbying had been promoted as a “die-in,” during which Tea Party activists would “go inside the Senate offices and hallways, and play out the role of patients waiting for treatment in government controlled medical facilities,” and after a while “pretend to die from our untreated illnesses and collapse on the floor.” As a small crowd of activists gathered for the “die-in,” however, none of them wanted to go the full guerrilla protest. Martin told them to be polite, and on the way out, some told TWI that they’d been rewarded with face-to-face time with their senators.

“We met with [Sen. Johnny] Isakson,” said Brad Parsons, a Georgia Tea Party activist, after leaving the Senate offices. “We talked for around 45 minutes, and he made more a lot optimistic about how certain senators are going to vote–which Democrats are still on the fence.”

Still, the late-breaking news that Lieberman would likely not filibuster a compromise bill angered and disappointed activists.

“I call him the Empty Yarmulke,” said Frederick Peterson, a Connecticut activist who’d come down to D.C. to lobby his senator. “It’s the same thing he did during the Clinton impeachment–gave one of the best speeches I’d ever heard, beautiful soaring rhetoric, rabbinical, and then he said, no, I’m not going to vote to remove him from office. You lift up the yarmulke and there’s nothing down there.”

The disappointment spread to the conservative celebrities who came to the “Code Red” rally (to signify the state of emergency) to psyche up the troops. Laura Ingraham, the syndicated radio host, arrived at the roped-off section next to the stage in one of the red “Freedom Czar” fleeces sold on her website, and proceeded to sign autographs and pose for photos. After signing a “Palin 2012″ baseball cap, however, she dodged a friendly question from an activist and moved back toward the stage.

“What’s going to happen with the health care?” the fan asked.

“I don’t know,” shrugged Ingraham. Introduced by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)–an unannounced guest at the rally who inspired the loudest cheers of the day–she treated the crowd to an alternately jokey and stirring speech, beginning with a retelling of Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and ending with a history lesson about the founding fathers.

While organizers and some activists were more optimistic about their chances of stopping a health care bill, some of their rhetoric put victory in the past tense–they’d won already by scaring the Democrats and delaying the bill. “Nancy Pelosi wanted to pass this bill on August 1!” said Jack Kingston (R-Ga.). The more pessimistic activists looked ahead to other Democratic priorities that they could stop in the Senate, and looked to the 2010 elections as a chance to take power away from the Democrats.

“I think we’ll take back the House,” said Curt Compton, a West Virginia activist who’d been unemployed since the start of summer. “Some people say we can take the Senate, although I’m not quite as optimistic about that yet.” The prospect of stopping the Democrats excited him more than the prospect of Republican victories. “They’re what we’ve got to work with,” he said.

Andy, a North Carolina activist who hoisted a sign that read “American Capitalism: 1492-2009 RIP,” suggested that a Republican Congress could start repealing Obama’s agenda in 2011 if they took power in the midterms. “That’s what happened with Clinton,” he said.

The more optimistic activists were already looking ahead to 2012. When the soft-spoken Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) took the stage–introduced by Bachmann as “our champion”–some in the crowd yelled “run for president!” Tom Hill, the disappointed Connecticut voter, used the other side of his huge sign to send Bachmann herself a message.

“PALIN/BACHMANN 2012: They’ll wring out the socialist mop!”

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Comments

25 Comments

Michael
Comment posted December 15, 2009 @ 7:27 pm

People as stupid as Tom Hill should not be allowed to vote, but Palin and Bachman are perfect representatives for the brainless tea-baggers.


republicanstupidity
Comment posted December 15, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

Amen! Do these clowns really think the America is stupid enough to give these two morons keys to the White House????


Wellescent Health
Comment posted December 15, 2009 @ 7:58 pm

While it is one thing to oppose the health care reforms, there is significant ignorance in switching camps and allegiances to whomever says something that appears to support one's goals. While Lieberman doesn't want certain elements in the bill, he has stated that without Medicare age changes and the public option, he is all for health reform. This implies that there is something that he supports in the reforms that the ardent opponents probably do not.


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Comment posted December 16, 2009 @ 4:47 am

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Curt Compton
Comment posted December 16, 2009 @ 11:29 am

For the record, I was misquoted in this article penned by Mr. Wiegel. I did not make the statements attributed to me with the exception of my employment status.
Along these lines, Mr. Wiegel failed to mention I am a well-educated technical engineer who had worked for a large telecomm provider who was victim to a reduction in force as a direct result of our stuggling economy. As part of a division of my former employer responsible for generating revenue, we were hit hard due to the fact that potential clients simply were not buying our products. The current economic climate dictates that corporate entities are simply not spending money and holding back for the rainy days ahead.
So it goes.
The point I wished to emphasize to Mr. Wiegel was that the reckless fiscal policies being executed by our acting president and the democrats in the House will only make it even more difficult for the 12 – 16% of the unemployed populace to find suitable employment.
This is only the second time I have visited The Washington Independent in my relatively brief time on this earth. For the second time, I am disappointed.
Many of the comments associated with the, apparently, unreliable articles here, are sadly lacking any intellectual discourse.
The pervasive use of ad hominem attacks (stupid…clowns…brainless…morons, etc.) is the argument of those who simply lack the intellectual fortitiude to formulate any reasoned discourse of their own. So they just call names and sterotype.
Brilliant!
But, of course, being from West Virgina, what do I know? I'm just a banjo-playing hillbilly who likely doesn't even have indoor plumbing!
Wise up, folks. Do your homework. (And perhaps publish more accurate reporting).
I fear our great nation is headed down into an economic abyss. Record spending. Record deficits. Record debt. Near-record unemployment. There will be grave consequences.
If the reckless spending does not cease immediately we may be considered doing well to be selling pencils on the corner.


David Weigel
Comment posted December 16, 2009 @ 11:45 am

Curt, please send me an email at dweigel at washingtonindependent.com. We talked about a lot more than the 2010 prospects, and I know I quoted your words accurately, but if I got the meaning wrong I can fix that.


strangely_enough
Comment posted December 16, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

I would assume it would be the millions of new customers for the the insurance companies mandated by the proposed legislation.
And, Lieberman has stated many, quite contradictory, things…


Wellescent Health
Comment posted December 16, 2009 @ 2:31 pm

It is possible that he is feeding his political supporters, but in this situation, it would seem a bit transparent. If you don't assume the simplicity of direct corruption, Lieberman is a hard one to read and at times seems to do things for the attention alone.


Swami_Binkinanda
Comment posted December 16, 2009 @ 3:11 pm

Why are conservatives so obsessed with homosexual rape references? I swear you can't read a single missive from a teabagger (Freud says “hmmm” at the name they chose for themselves) without them devolving into some gay rape imagery or prison sex metaphor for the political process. This tells me a lot about how these people think of themselves. Is the nation ready for a conservative movement of unfulfilled submissive twinks, bears, and chickenhawks?


Johnny S
Comment posted December 17, 2009 @ 11:31 am

3,000 protesters? Don't you mean 300,000?


Chelsea1220
Comment posted December 17, 2009 @ 6:17 pm

Just because Bachman and Palin disagree with Obama and the Democrats doesn't make them stupid. the stupid people are the one's who make ignorant comments without understanding anything about the issues.


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Irish_Wake
Comment posted December 19, 2009 @ 9:37 am

You are correct, disagreeing with Obama and the Democrats doesn't make Bachman and Palin stupid. But a high IQ is not proof one is not stupid.

Bachmann is a font of embarrassing activity, overflowing with acts that are either hostile to the Constitution or toothless grandstanding. I give you her recent resolution to protect Christmas from various unnamed threats.

Palin demonstrated an inability to debate. However, it isn't her inability, but her proud statement that she was not at the debate to debate the issues. I still find it hilariously ironic that the then-Governor of a state that redistributes wealth by taking it from the oil producers and giving it to the populace in the State's name is the figurehead of a movement that calls our president 'socialist'.

Neither are stupid, yet their actions make learned discussion difficult. The result is a net increase in stupid.

I will agree with your call to eliminate name-calling. If the 'twinks, bears, chickenhawks, and teabaggers' were also 'Economics 101 students' the discussion would generate more light and less heat.


HarleyBud73
Comment posted December 23, 2009 @ 6:12 am

There are NO credible politicians in this country….not a single one and to pit one corrupt one against any other is just ignoring the fact that they all are bought and paid for by the lobbyist outside the halls of Congress.

Heres what we do: Never reelect anyone…ever!

Next: enact universal health care like every other industrialized nation on earth. End the private insurance industries hold over all our healthcare and put the doctor and us back into the decision making process.

Then: pass the Fairtax.org…enough said, The IRS would go away and the entire populous (including criminals) would pay it's fair share in consumption taxes …after the monthly prebate level.


Blinds and Curtains
Comment posted February 8, 2010 @ 10:51 pm

Have we really progressed in the last 12 months?


pordus
Comment posted February 16, 2010 @ 6:47 pm

Really nice and has a following narrative.. Thanks


pordus
Comment posted February 16, 2010 @ 11:47 pm

Really nice and has a following narrative.. Thanks


Lauren Potter
Comment posted October 19, 2010 @ 12:20 am

I agree with you.This is only the second time I have visited The Washington Independent in my relatively brief time on this earth.


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