Here's how my town hall meeting would work: (1) Every single person in the room gets to talk. We'll stay all night. One side doesn't get to do all the talking first, either.
Sure, there are "experts" here, but their job is to answer when somebody asks 'em a question.
(2) Everybody gets to hoot and holler all they want after every speaker. Cheer. Clap. Boo. Shout. Hiss. This is America.
(3) Just one thing. You don't get to do it while somebody else is talking. I don't care which side you're on, you get to talk. But if you try to block somebody else from talking, my big friends here are taking you outside.
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What we call "town hall meetings" are stupid, anyway. That's the real problem. That's why they've blown up in our faces recently.
The idea that real Americans might actually show up and disagree with each other is the furthest thing from the minds of the organizers of these dog-and-phony shows.
Sure, most recently, it was a Democrat who booked a too-small room and reserved seats for the union guys. But a few years back, it was President George W. Bush in Tampa, holding a fake "public" meeting to make it look like everybody wanted to privatize Social Security.
("It is apparent," my favorite daily newspaper editorialized then, "that Bush and his handlers are afraid to allow even an inkling of dissent in the audience.") Goose, gander.
In our current fight, having seen too much of this messy, Jacksonian, muddy-boot democracy, some Democrats and Republicans alike now are giving up even the pretense of "town hall meetings."
They are retreating to even more fakery, the telephone "town hall meeting." There they can reassure each other: Hooray for our side.
Public opinion is a hammer, not a scalpel. Public opinion bangs around and makes noise. Sometimes it hits the nail, and sometimes it misses .
The fact that some opponents are raving about "death panels" does not change the reality that a lot of Americans are legitimately worried about a big government expansion.
It's not just the evil insurance companies. Or the evil right wing. Or the evil talk-show guys. To deny this opposition is a losing strategy.
Same on the other side, which seems to be saying that anybody who believes our system is too unfair, too fractured, too profit-driven, and should be improved, is an insane socialist.
In conclusion: (1) No more fake meetings. (2) We need more yelling, not less. Guys wearing silk stockings wrote the Declaration of Independence, but it took a bunch of really ticked-off farmers to get anything settled.
ST. PETERSBURG TIMES