August 6th, 2009
01:55 PM ET
9 years ago

Liberal groups launch town hall counteroffensive

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Liberal groups are sending supporters detailed instructions on strategies to counter what they call organized disruptions of congressional town halls - events that have become new front lines in the fight over President Obama's health care proposal.

Conservative groups critical of the overhaul headed into the August recess with their own battle plans for the events, sending opponents of the Democratic approach to health care reform information like links to search engines and lists that relayed the locations of upcoming town halls; confrontational questions to ask members of Congress; and chants and slogans to use in and around the venues.

The increasingly tense face-offs have grabbed headlines, and national Democrats have spent the week highlighting reports of everything from rowdy crowds to physical assaults and death threats directed at lawmakers who are current or prospective backers of the president's plan.

Over the past few days, groups like Health Care for America Now, the AFL-CIO - which is describing the town halls as the "principal battleground" in the health care fight - and Organizing for America, the president's campaign arm at the Democratic National Committee, have sent supporters logistical tips for dealing with any hostile conservative presence at the town halls, and for organizing lobbying efforts to neutralize their impact.

OFA sent its e-mail list a message Thursday that pointed to the protests as a fresh hurdle that called for a concerted push to contact members of Congress in response. "The goal of these disruptions is for a few people to get a lot a media attention and hijack the entire public discourse," wrote executive director Mitch Stewart. The message identifies the lawmaker who represents the specific congressional district of the e-mail recipient, and provides contact information.

A new campaign by the group also asks supporters to make their presence felt at town hall meetings. "Our congressional representatives are back home this month, and they’re facing more and more pressure from special interests on health insurance reform. It’s critical that we get out there and show them where we stand," says an OFA e-mail.

HCAN – the massive umbrella organization that represents the lobbying effort on behalf of major progressive groups and unions like MoveOn, the NAACP, and the SEIU – has given its supporters instructions on their own set of defensive town hall tactics.

The group advises them to coordinate event-day strategy in advance with congressional aides; arrive far earlier than opponents and gather "in the front to create a wall around the Member"; and to assign individuals to shadow reporters and "be assertive in shaping the narrative." It provides suggested questions and possible chants to use in drowning out raucous opponents.

The instructions also offer "precautions to make sure that you can keep meetings you organize under control." Those guidelines include making sure attendees are "easily identifiable"; establishing a strictly-controlled question-asking protocol; and banning and collecting any signs and leaflets that they have not issued themselves.

"Plan for disturbances and assign marshals," say the guidelines. "Make sure that you assign marshals to take care of moving the crowd, keeping people organized and orderly, and acting as security should any need arise to ask noisy or disruptive protesters to leave. If you have cause to think that you will need more back-up, notify the police ahead of time."

Opponents of the Obama plan have taken note of the new efforts. Thursday afternoon, conservative blog RedState noted that a Democratic Florida congresswoman had scheduled a "last-minute town hall" in an effort to "avoid middle class workers opposed to Obamacare."

"She'll be surrounded by union goons from the SEIU to feed middle class voters to alligators if they dare criticize Obamacare," said the blog, which advised readers who lived in the area that "you should show up. Just remember, the union goons are going to do their best to pick fights with you so they can get video for TV a proof that you guys are a mob. Don't let them win, but get your questions asked."

Moderate Democrats and fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats in particular are being targeted with lobbying campaigns, millions of dollars in radio and television ads, and grassroots pressure from both parties and groups across the political spectrum over the August recess, as Congress continues to weigh the president's proposed overhaul of the nation's health care system.

Filed under: Health care
soundoff (108 Responses)
  1. Lisa, Saugus MA

    I saw the tape on the news last night of the man who is a registered democrat wearing a baseball hat who made a lot of sense in that if the President took 6 months to pick out just the right dog for his daughters, why the mad rush to pass a health care bill that will not benefit everyone. What's the rush was his question. Why is that considered mob mentality?

    I think the administration just can't believe that the American people are not stupid and are paying attention to the growing deficits and the possibility of increased taxes. That doesn't sit well so they are expressing their concerns at these "town hall" meetings.

    Why are the dems making out the repubs to be the bad guys and putting plants in the crowds. I don't believe this is true based on the questions that these ones have asked. These are questions I have asked and tonight when CNN reveals the health care grade as well as the economy grade of the administration, we will see the majority are not giving his policies the high marks anymore!

    August 6, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  2. cedgar

    this should be funny
    they better follow Boxer's dress code lol
    Sorry guys I think the average American is new to this whole
    protesting thing, but I will put money on them.
    See all the average folks Sept 12,2009 in Washington DC

    August 6, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  3. Willy Brown

    What are you liberal going to do? Cry “victim”!

    August 6, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  4. Susie

    These whackos are screwing themselves!!! Republic/Democrat/Independent – it doesn't matter – we are PEOPLE. We want our country to work for us – not the SPEECHMAKER/Do NOTHING camera hog. Obomba will never get re-elected – will be surprised if he lasts another year!!!!!

    August 6, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  5. No Indepentent

    "death threats directed at lawmakers who are current or prospective backers of the president's plan."

    This is what the republican party has become. I just changed my registration yesterday. Until I see republicans CONDEMN this childish behavior, I refuse to vote for a single one of them. This is too much. I'm still conservative, but I'm an adult first, and I absolutely REFUSE to vote for another republican unless they aggressively put an end to such pathetic antics and tactics. To not confront it and put an end to it, is to condone it. I can not blame the Liberal groups for fighting back against such terrorists.

    GROW UP or end up like the democrats threaten, EXTINCT!

    August 6, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  6. makesUwonder

    Do what you want liberal groups, but it won't do any good. These town hall meetings are both Republicans and Democrats that are fed up. In other words, it's the American people. My sister, brother-in-law and my parents are die hard Democrats and they went to their town hall meeting. They, like everyone else has had it with this administration and it's lies.

    August 6, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  7. Rob

    Now the libs are going to show everyone how a mob backed by a lying political party operates.

    The libs are just mad because intelligent people are speaking up for something that is so blatantly wrong.

    Why is it that Obama wants to push (his pathetic version of) healthcare through in 3 weeks, yet took 6 months for him to pick a dog? Guess that means he values his dog more than he does the American people.

    But go ahead libs. Spew you talking-points of lies, build up your 'fishy' list of people. We (at least the non-libs) are too smart to fall for your lies. You are being exposed for what you truly are.

    August 6, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  8. Kevin

    As a devout evangelical Christian, I always ask myself, "What would Jesus want?" I truly believe that Jesus would NOT want 47,000,000 Americans without health care. I don't think Jesus would want ANYONE to be without health care in the entire world.

    How do we fix this problem and honor Christ?

    August 6, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  9. Abraham Borbor

    The health care debate should be a battle of ideas and not one for hecklers or disruptions.Some of us choose to come to The US to see great debates within the corners of the gate keepers of "DEMOCRACY".Dissapointment ! Dissapointment !

    August 6, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  10. RB

    Hey Democrats, explain this to me. It was perfectly in your right, and i agree, to raise you know what during the Bush years about the war and everything else you disliked about him and the Republicans but you don't like it when it is returned to you. People don't like the health care plan, the runaway federal spending and the control the federal government wants to take on the private sector. This appears to be the classic: "do as i say but not as i do"!

    August 6, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  11. Larry

    What we need is the bill posted online so we can read it. There's so much lying going on now I don't believe anything I hear about health care reform.

    August 6, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  12. JV we'll see ACORN thugs and black panthes with billy clubs blocking the doors to town hall meetings. Watch out.... if you post any anti healthcare remarks on here I'll report you to the white house!

    August 6, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  13. concerned citizen

    OK so we know the administration funded organizations and the Union funded organizations that are "counter protesting", and the DNC keeps claiming that the protesters are not real grassroots citizens but members of organizations aa well. So who are the well organized, well funded, groups of people that keep showing up to "disrupt" the congresspeople during their dog and pony shows? What organized groups do the sinister "conservative" protesters belong to?

    August 6, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  14. Eloise Davis

    I can't understand why you are saying the R's are "running the Congressmen away from their town hall meetings" when in fact, they should be staying the course and explaining their position and WHY in the world they think this health plan is a good idea.
    Are the politicians "afraid" they might not have a good answer?
    Can you actually prove these are ALL Republicans? No, you can't.

    August 6, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  15. democrat no mas

    So we don't tolerate disruption and need to disrupt those who are disrupting in the wrong way? Let's all put on brown shirts so we can recognize each other while we beat the dog out of those senile old folks. Worked well for Adolph.

    August 6, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  16. Stefani Izquierdo

    It doesn't matter who organized or who didn't organize the opprotunity for people to attend the town hall meetings to oppose or to support the Obama Health Care Reform Plan. What matters is that people are participating. True, people need to be more respectful and allow the representatives to speak and answer questions – but people are uncertain, suffering and just wanting the truth. I read the bill and it is scary and it does state that there will be an unelected Board that will be deciding what type of health care people will get or not get – it does state that business will have the option to use the public health care option and therefore ultimately force people to let their private plan go. Please understand that as Americans we have the right to protect our freedoms and sometimes we have to yell and scream to be heard.

    August 6, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  17. Regressive Party Refugee (Former Republican)

    Thanks, repubicans, for pioneering yet another dimension of dirty politicking.

    Let's see, you had Watergate, Lee Atwater, Swift boating, cracking and packing, the Texas gerrymandering, the underhanded presidential election stealing, the neocon "take no prisoners-we don't need you" approach to legislative conduct and bipartisanship, to Karl Rove and the fake self-serving "news" reports fed to news outlets, and finally the "kill him" hate fests disguised as presidential campaign rallies.

    You're definitely on a creative roll.

    August 6, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |

    Hmmmmmmm......I guess if these were people from ACORN, NAACP, RAINBOW PUSH, CODE PINK, UNION GROUPS, Health Care for America Now and Organizing for America it would be OK.....what is wrong with this picture?

    August 6, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  19. Deep Throat

    So-called bluedog Democrats are under great pressure from
    Speaker Pelosi to vote yes to whatever healthcare the Obama
    White House is promoting. Her tactics are working, especially
    promises lots of $$$ from Hollywood bigwigs when 2010 rolls
    around. Obamacare is coming...whether you like it or not...
    including funding abortions and illegal aliens.

    August 6, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  20. GOP shame

    Hanging effigies, lies, insurance lobbyists, direct Republican Party ties, hypocritical with their socialized Medicare, uncivilized, rude, fringe elements. Expose the fraud and evil from these Republicans.

    Americans have a right to know the truth behind these deplorable tactics against our health care reforms in order to have a constructive and honest discussion.

    August 6, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  21. CNN hates Kelby's comments...that's why they don't post my comments

    Your report did not go deep enough into the sponsors and the people who are behind
    You need to expose these people, their ties to Big Pharma, Health insurance companies and lobbyists and subsequently why they have organized these mobs to disrupt town hall meetings.
    BTW, They are referred to as 'angry mobs' because that is what they look like. I know you would like to pretend that this is some sort of grass roots movement, but everybody could tell this was an organized mob from the very first moment we saw them.
    We, the People have learned valuable lessons from the Bush admin. We, The People were asleep, we were not paying attention before. We are now and we know what's real, these mobs disrupting town hall meetings, posing as constituents, posing as a grass roots movement are not real.
    If they were real, if they were serious, they would be intelligent and rational. These people most certainly are not.

    August 6, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  22. Wake Up

    I mean this is downright disgusting and embarrassing. Let people have their say. Will you Obamabots wake up and see what kind of man he really is??? It's still a democracy!

    August 6, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  23. A. Goodwin

    Sad that the Rethuglican's cannot have a peaceful debate. Nobody is saying that Republican's cannot protest or dissagree with anything! What is offensive is when people...Republican, Democratic, Independent...go to these meetings and cannot learn from them due to a few people who are rudely acting out! Heck, a Democratic protester at a McCain event was tased just by speaking out! Nobody in these debates want to squelch those from coming to the table with their concerns...but when people start shouting out over others – where is the fairness in that?

    Interestingly RedState's critical rebuke seeths of lack of intelligence – using childish words such as "goons" or "Obamacare". Pathetic.

    August 6, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  24. m jeff

    It's time to counter these crazed growds sent by the Repubs and the insurance companies.

    August 6, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  25. mjm

    HCAN – the massive umbrella organization that represents the lobbying effort on behalf of major progressive groups and unions like MoveOn, the NAACP, and the SEIU – has given its supporters instructions on their own set of defensive town hall tactics.

    See...That's how you lobby! Go massive or go home! These guys know how to disrupt an event! They are professionals at it.

    It's ok for these guys to disrupt everything from traffic to town halls, but don't let anyone speak out. We only want proffesional mobs at these events.

    August 6, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
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