by Quin Hillyer;
Throughout the country, leftist activist groups have been showing up en masse and disrupting “town meetings” held by Republican congressmen. When southern Alabama U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne holds such a meeting Monday evening at the Via Health, Fitness and Enrichment Center, 1717 Dauphin Street in Mobile (doors open at 5; meeting begins at 5:30), conservatives and moderates ought to show up in great numbers to counter any such attempts and to offer dignified support for the reasonable and open dialogue — and, I hope, for most of the thoughtful conservative policies for which Byrne is working.
To be clear, I applaud all efforts by citizens to take part in these town hall meetings. The problem is not the participation of liberal citizens (which is a good thing!); it is the disruptive participation, often spurred by outside agitators, that is not acceptable.
It is one thing to express displeasure in a civilized manner. That’s a good, American tradition. Silent protest is fine; asking tough (but respectful) questions is fine; offering pointed (but again, respectful) criticism is also perfectly legitimate, and should be welcome. But it is another thing, utterly unacceptable, to shout down elected officials (or their supporters) so that they cannot even speak or be heard. Again and again, that’s what some of these agitators have been doing in recent town halls across the country. Sometimes the leftists have even tried to shout down the opening prayer and/or the Pledge of Allegiance!
There is no indication that such things are planned for Byrne’s meeting on Monday. But if they are, it certainly would help if a large number of conservatives, moderates, or even respectful liberals who value civil discourse would also be there to make clear — in a calm but resolute way — that disruptions are not to be tolerated.
Now, please do let me make something clear: If there are disruptions, it is not the role of citizens resentful of such disruptions to take things into their own hands in a physical sense; that should be the province only of security officers. But it is the role of good citizens to make clear that such disruptions are unwelcome — and it also is a good idea to show, via appropriate applause, that a majority of southern Alabamans support Byrne’s positions on most of the issues. If conservatives stay home while the Left agitates, it will give the false impression (clearly false, according to polls and voting behavior) that Byrne’s conservative stances are somehow out of touch with the majority will of his constituents.
The local Tea Party group, the Common Sense campaign, has supported another candidate over Byrne in recent elections, but its leaders have put out a call for its membership to attend and show support for him now. This is a good thing.
Again, to repeat: This is not a call for “an eye for an eye,” and not a call for conflict. It is instead a call for the leavening influence of large numbers of supporters whose very presence can dissuade the agitators from trying to physically or otherwise take control of the meeting.
These town-hall meetings are supposed to promote dialogue. Sometimes large numbers on one side can actually help ensure that calm prevails. (I wrote about one such incident at The American Spectator a number of years ago, recounting an incident I first reported on for New Orleans Gambit Weekly. The key line was about how the larger majority, by keeping its own cool, made the radicals “look feckless instead of fierce,” and made their leader “look pitiful rather than powerful.”)
So please, if you have the time, and want to support honest and constructive public dialogue, show up on Dauphin Street on Monday night (March 6).