Death threats have forced the cancellation of town hall health care meetings in Vancouver, Washington. Vancouver Congressman Brian Baird, Democrat, received death threats and heard from numerous constituents fearing for their safety in connection with attending the scheduled town hall discussions. In light of the possible danger, Baird will conduct meetings in a controlled environment over the phone.
Republican protesters have been disrupting health care town hall meetings across the country. Because of Republican threats and intimidation, citizens in Vancouver won't get to discuss health care reform in traditional town hall settings.
Town hall meetings were originally scheduled to provide a forum for discussing health care reform. But in public meetings across the country, those forums have degenerated into shouting matches. Republican extremists, in concert with the health insurance lobby, have been conducting a campaign of dirty tricks and misinformation. “It's not about showing up and having a real dialogue or discussing point A or B about the health care proposal," said Congressman Baird. "It’s 'shout them down, disrupt them and then post your video of that disruption on YouTube'.”
Baird is deploying an interesting strategy, telephone town halls, to overcome Republican plans to disrupt and sabotage town hall meetings. Random voters will receive automated phone messages asking if they have a question for their Congressman. If they do, they will be asked their location and the subject of their question. Sitting at his own telephone, Baird then will choose a name based on its location and the topic. After the call is over, the recording will be posted on his Web site.
While Congressman Baird may have come up with a creative response to an ugly problem, the problem remains. Organized efforts to demonize health care reform have gone far beyond politics as usual. Republican operatives are threatening free speech: Political threats of violence, political acts of violence, threaten the fabric of our society. The fact that any Republican would encourage or condone such activity is appalling.