The Right Steals A Page From The Left’s Playbook And Scores

Copy cats: You'd think the activist folks on the left of the political spectrum would be pretty chapped right about now. After all, they've been in the protest and civil disobedience game for decades, speaking out against everything from war to the death penalty to environmental rape. And now we have these Johnny-come-latelies on the right, with their tea-bagging and Obama is a communist/fascist/socialist signs, packing heat and being shrill, and already they're mucking up health care reform.

Eight years of calling Bush/Cheney fascists, and we're still at war in two countries. Five minutes of calling Obama Hitler, and his health-care proposals seem ready for a DNR order.

It could be that the tea party types are more representative of America, Buzz supposes. The protesters shown hourly on Fox News certainly seem like a diverse bunch, evoking the American melting pot—if by melting pot you mean a horde of thin-lipped white folks ranging from late middle-age to elderly.

Or maybe they've just learned a lot about managing a protest from all those years of watching guys like Lon Burnam, executive director of the Dallas Peace Center—which doesn't have anything to do with health care, but has a long history of public activism.

Not surprising, Burnam doesn't want to take any credit for the right's seeming success. "I don't know that I'd go so far as saying the right has adopted the techniques of the peace movement," he says. Certainly a peace rally isn't the sort of thing you'd bring a gun to, and Burnam says the peace movement also tries to discourage "violent," over-the-top expression.

And while peace protesters are undoubtedly polemical, they also try not to make up "facts."

"The people who are making the most noise in this [health care] debate have the least facts," he says.

Not that facts are necessarily vital to winning a debate. They oftentimes get in the way (see: any five minutes of Glenn Beck on Fox). But as Burnam points out, the protesters who accused the Bush administration of war crimes would prefer to see their claims "aired out in the proper venue." In other words, they're at least calling for some form of truth-seeking, which is more than you can say of those anti-health care reform types who insist on claiming that Obama wants to kill your granny with a "death panel."

Unfortunately, the right may be learning another trick from years of watching the other side at work, and is toning down some of its more extravagant claims and activities, like disrupting town hall meetings.

"The people on the right have figured out how badly they've damaged their cause by looking shrill," Burnam says.

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams

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