Democrats: Town-Halls Aren't All Bad

In fact, some of them are downright good--that's the message supporters of health care reform are working to spread now, in the wake of so much vitriol and antipathy broadcast via YouTube over the month of August.

The Democratic National Committee just sent out a list of "the conversations you're not hearing" to reporters--linking to news stories about 14 recent health care town-halls hosted by Democratic lawmakers that have proceeded calmly and constructively, plus a few demonstrations that have been peaceful.

"Outside the echo chamber of 24-hour cable news, Americans all across the country are attending town halls, holding coffee shop conversations and engaging in respectful, honest debates about the best way to achieve health insurance reform. As the President continues to forge ahead, making historic progress in his effort to reform America's broken health insurance system, please see below for coverage of the conversations you haven't been hearing," the DNC wrote.

This comes after Gallup/USA Today announced that, according to a new survey, the conservative town-hall demonstrations have made people more sympathetic to the protesters' complaints, and less likely to support the Democratic health care reform effort.

Some of the DNC's examples: freshman Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY), who unseated a Republican in typically conservative upstate New York to enter Congress this year, held a town-hall with 200 constituents that "felt Lincoln-esque in its nature," according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle; Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) thought the audience members were "respectful" at a recent event, despite sometimes contentious debate; opponents of health care reform filled up "about half the seats" at a town-hall hosted by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), according to a post on Daily Kos, but no disruptions occurred; "this is democracy," Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) said after an event in her district that drew opponents and supporters of reform alike.

The liberal group Americans United for Change (part of the liberal interest-group coalition backing the Democratic/Obama health care reform initiative), likewise blasted out a similar list of peaceful town-halls via e-mail, including a video link to local news coverage of one in Charlottesville, Virginia, where freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D) was backed up by a predominantly pro-reform crowd.

Later today, the group forwarded a Philadelphia Inquirer story, highlighting how a health care town-hall hosted by Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) had gone similarly well.

"About 650 people - diverse in age, race, and occupation, but nearly all supporters of a health-care overhaul - last night crowded into a Center City church for a town meeting with U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) that, in sharp contrast to recent gatherings across the country, was overwhelmingly civil.," the Inquirer reporters wrote.

Some of these examples are taken from strong Democratic districts; some are taken from swing districts and states recently represented by Republicans. The message is less that everyone is behind President Obama's plan, and more that town-halls aren't all messy, ugly disruptions--that while the media loves to talk about the frenzied unpleasantness, that's not what's going on everywhere, and August isn't really just a big anti-health-care-reform bloodbath.

The new Democratic message is: civil discourse is happening around health care, and in that regard the White House is making progress on reform, with a healthy, national discussion. It's not as sensational as a roomful of screamers, but if you read the papers, you'll see it.

UPDATE: The DNC has put together a video compilation of local news coverage of civil town-hall meetings, entitled "What You Won't See On National Cable News":