Why The Brawls of August Are Good

There's lots of lamenting on the left about all the teabaggers showing up and town hall meetings on health care being held by returning members. The right's all atwitter about organized labor and the left sending people to these meetings. I'm not sure any of it is really bad. Obviously, death threats, demonization and the like are not good for civil discourse. No one gains from shouting. In a perfect world each town meeting would be a civilized discussion of the merits of different approaches to health care. But that's not the world we live in. The more likely alternative is no interest, sparsely attended meetings or just one side showing up. 

At least you can say there's some civic engagement going on. Yes, a lot of it is based on fear mongering and stoked emotions. Rush Limbaugh's rant yesterday comparing the "Democrat party" to Hitler was among the more absurd things ever spoken. But the enemy of legislation is apathy and we're not in an apathetic season. There's real passion over this issue, even if a lot of it is based on willful ignorance.

The health care debate still has a long way to play out. We'll be talking about it all fall and the plans being talked about will change and change again. In the meantime, isn't it better that people are engaged in the August heat than not at all.

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Matthew Cooper is a managing editor (White House) for National Journal.

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