The D&C opinion page has decided to go Pollyanna with its descriptions of town hall meetings happening here and across the country. While insisting how important it is that politicians do more of these types of meetings, they describe the Eric Massa town hall as follows:
More than 500 people questioned Massa for two hours outside the Mendon Community Center last Thursday night. The meeting felt Lincoln-esque in its nature, with citizens gathered in a circle around Massa. Most behaved with respect, although a few people shouted now and then.
Wow. Sounds like a splendid ice cream social. But the story I’ve gotten from those who are there is that, to start, the crowd was at least three to four times the size of a normal crowd. The people running the meeting went the extra mile to accommodate those who showed up by holding the event outside. And then, the stories about euthanasia and forced abortions came spilling out of the crowd’s email in-boxes and into what normally would be considered rational company.
It is convenient for those who oppose health care reform – among whose numbers the D&C appears to be – to insist that politicians subject themselves to the attacks of the crazies. But until someone learns how to deal with astroturf uprisings and converse directly with their constituencies, these meetings are doing more harm than good for everybody involved. Which is a shame, because the town hall meetings are what politicians like Eric Massa have built their careers on.