Tea Party Boise Town Hall Meeting

The big news in the Idaho political blogosphere this week was that my Congressman, Democrat Walt Minnick, was going to attend a Town Hall Meeting on health care put together by Tea Party Boise. Many progressive bloggers (here, here, and here) didn't like the idea of a Democrat even going to such an event, feeling it would give the "Tea-baggers" some sort of public acceptance. I thought it might be interesting to see what would happen, so I went last night. There were about 300 people there. Idaho Senator Crapo joined the festivities for a few minutes via telephone.

Democrats will be happy to learn that Congressman Minnick did not engage in any bashing of President Obama personally, and in fact defended him in front of a crowd that clearly didn't want to hear such things. While Walt clearly isn't in favor of the current health care bills being supported by the Democratic Party leadership, and prefers to use the market to solve the problems, he did say he sees the need for health care reform, particularly in the case of people with pre-existing conditions currently unable to get affordable insurance.

Tea Partiers will be interested to know that the moderator and the crowd itself kept themselves pretty much in line as far as screaming and yelling. There was lots of loud applause and some fairly lusty booing at some points, but whenever someone tried tried to speak out of turn (they drew random numbers, and only those people could come to the microphone and ask questions / make comments) the crowd shushed them quite effectively. (An example was when Walt was explaining how President Obama is President of the whole country, and someone yelled out "What about his birth certificate.") Lots of Tea Partiers had what I considered some radical ideas and some fuzzy thinking -- one suggested that the whole concept of insurance was the cause of all the country's ills, and that if there was no insurance people would be a lot more personally responsible. There was lots of cheering for the concept of putting people in jail who tried to use the emergency room and not pay, but they also complained about the high cost of incarcerating people and wanted frequent use of the death penalty. Combining the two, it seemed the only logical solution to their conundrum was to execute poor people who couldn't afford to pay their hospital bills. They were, in general, big into personal responsibility. I assumed that their philosophy is that, as people end up close to starving because of no government aid of any kind, and these people start invading their homes to try to feed their families, they'd just shoot them down and everything would work out.

I was beginning to get disappointed that I wasn't going to see any fireworks when the meeting ended, and then it happened -- the "Truthers" ("Israel did it" sub-division) showed up. One was kind enough to pose for a picture:

To the Tea Partiers credit, their "security" did keep the Truthers away from Congressman Minnick, and were discussing among themselves how to get them out of the room. However, it seemed they were not as small of a minority opinion among the crowd as the organizers might want us to believe, because one of my son's Facebook friends was live-posting the event, and he overheard people discussing "controlled demolition" of the Trade Centers before the forum started.

A couple of MSM reports of the meeting can be found here and here. Overall, I thought is was a good exercise in American democracy -- people without a chance in hell of their worldview coming to fruition were able to vent their spleens to their elected representatives, and even learn a few things (like the questioner who thought that President Obama could sign a Health Care bill that passed the House but failed in the Senate). As Walt said in explaining why he came to the meeting, these people help pay his salary, so he should listen to them. I applaud Walt for going into the lion's den, and hope others will do the same.

Update 1059 23 Aug: Alan from IdaBlue was also there, and posted his report.

Update 1834 23 Aug: Jill Kuraitis of New West Boise has the best account of the evening I've seen so far. Bill H. from Free In Idaho has an excellent report from the right side of the Idaho political blogosphere. (I actually got a chance to meet Bill and his lovely wife after the event.)