Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. — Saul Alinsky
Which is why when the Washington Post can’t make any reasonable fact-based criticism, they turn to Robin Givhan, the “fashion writer”. What a sweet gig that must be — to get a paycheck and a byline in a major newspaper for writing slam book entries and calling them “columns.” This Sunday, Ms Givhan turned her attention to the citizens who are attending town hall meetings and presenting their grievances to their elected officials:
What does one wear to a town hall meeting on health care when the sole reason for attending is to shout down one’s congressman like a peevish teenager in the midst of a hormonal rage?
Goodness, what does “one” wear? Perhaps one could do some reporting and go to a town hall meeting? But of course, one might find out that some of the attendees have other reasons for attending than “shouting down their congressman.”
And to her credit, Givhan actually concedes that point. I was pleasantly surprised to read on and find (emphasis mine)…
As congressional representatives have gone home to their constituents this summer to sell health care reform, they have occasionally been met by concerned voters with pointed questions, reasonable doubts and fear-of-the-unknown frustrations about what lies ahead. Citizens want to make sure that their representatives have thought through this whole health care reconfiguration….
By and large, the shouters are dressed in a way that underscores their Average Guy — or Gal — bona fides. They are wearing T-shirts, baseball caps, promotional polo shirts and sundresses with bra straps sliding down their arm…..
At the town halls hosted by Sens. Arlen Specter and Claire McCaskill, both legislators dressed for business. Specter was in a dark suit and tie. McCaskill wore a chocolate brown jacket with a narrow standing collar. Sen. Ben Cardin wore a dark suit with a navy striped tie to his meeting with his health care mob. They all peered at the irate speakers in some combination of stoic disbelief, subdued annoyance and preternatural calm.
For anyone who has ever been in relationships with shouters, they will know that few things irritate venters more than having their high-decibel rants met with the exaggerated serenity of Nurse Ratched. It’s the ultimate kind of power play — a political rope-a-dope — and the non-responders know it.
The agitated souls regularly bring up the fact that members of Congress have platinum-level health care plans. They demand to know whether congressmen will sign on to the much-maligned and still undefined public option that is part of the reform discussion. The underlying focus of this grudge match is, of course, about power — as concentrated in Congress, the presidency, the special interests, the wealthy. The rage emerges from a feeling of helplessness that some version of reform is going to occur whether these citizens like it or not.
That sentiment is underscored in photo after photo. The common man, in his T-shirt and jeans, is shouting passionately at “the suit.” In the videos from these meetings, audio is unnecessary. It’s clear who’s in charge and who is shouting into the wind.
Givhan goes on to ask what would happen if the protestors were to arrive better dressed:
Would they garner more respect? Would they compel more lawmakers to rethink their positions rather than merely repeat, again and again — in a voice that has the tone of an impatient kindergarten teacher — the same core points? Would legislators stop telling that condescending anecdote about how people profess their love for government-run Medicare even as they, in the same breath, express their distrust and disdain for government-run medical care? (Maybe snot-nosed mockery is an instinctive response to illogic, but it’s not the most productive way to assuage those who fear the unknown.)
But then, we already know what would happen: The protestors would be put down as “not real protestors” by the likes of Madam Speaker Pelosi, or dismissed as Astroturfers.
The assemblies have the look of a lone bean-counter and a throng of unhappy workers. Visually, there’s nothing to indicate we-are-all-in-this-together. …. (President Obama has been photographed dressed more casually in the Oval Office than he was for his recent question-and-answer session with the regular Joes of New Hampshire.)
Washington’s power brokers have suited up to underscore their authority and the seriousness of the subject matter. And bully for them. But their attire also says: I am the boss of you. All those howling citizens — in their T-shirts and ball caps and baggy shorts — are saying: No, you’re not.
Well, color me pleasantly surprised.