Health Debate Produces Angry Protests, Angry Retorts

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The Earth-scorching
August firefight over health care has given rise to questions about
the point at which stifling civil discussion damages the democratic
process.

All across
the country, conservative opponents are clamoring to disrupt town-hall
meetings about the proposed overhaul of the nation’s health
care system, using GOP-generated talking points to shout down Democratic
congressmen who attempt to explain the plan.
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The Constitution
protects their right to speak freely, but Democrats say that they
are limiting rather than promoting an open exchange of ideas.

Some experts
on political organization say that despite the disruption of Democratic-run
events – and divided public feelings on the health care overhaul
– the shout-down strategy betrays an essential weakness on
the Republican side, not a strength.

Nonetheless,
the high-stakes battle has pressed allies of a president who built
his narrative around his work as a community organizer into a campaign
to delegitimize the organizers of the protests and their means of
expression.

“Organized
mobs across the country are intimidating lawmakers, disrupting events,
and silencing discussions about the change our country needs,”
one Obama campaign aide wrote in an e-mail to supporters in Michigan.

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the rest of the article

August
7, 2009

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