Frank Pallone took questions about health care reform in an increasingly heated room for more than 3.5 hours last night, at Piscataway Municipal Hall. Overhead lighting was harsh and the room filled to capacity, with people standing eight deep in back, and down both sides.
So many, that Pallone ran 3 full sessions, emptying out each time for a new crop of people. Each session, its own rhythm. The first had the most organized agitators from the teabag movement. Their antagonizing started outside, even before the doors were opened. Section 2, the most substantive questions – on both sides – and people willing to listen to the answers. The weary third session – most people waiting hours hours to get in – the largest, and the most concerned with preventive care, and with the side issue of abortion.
It was also the only session with many young people.
I was glad to see them show up. Particularly given this, noting that young Obama supprters are AWOL from the health care fight. And that’s messed up. This is signature legislation from the Obama era and change still needs the life, drive and energy of young progressives.
Most of the people walked into the room with opinions gelled, looking for that microphone. Pallone, even-tempered even when the room got shouty, sometimes veered into the wonky.
Substantive questions were on mental health parity, fraud prevention, impact of public option on the deficit, and impact on the disabled. But those were high points.
Cuckoo. Liars. Nazis. Socialists. “He hasn’t even read the bill!” You heard this, too. People angry, mistrustful of government, certain they’re getting bamboozled. A stunning number expressing complete indifference to people without care.
Here’s what surprised me:
I expected misperceptions, even deliberate misdirection. Got that. I wasn’t prepared for so many of the anti-reform agitators fully believing that what HR 3200is, is single-payer health care.
Make the distinction more effecitvely between the public option and single-payer. Dial down the anger (both sides, I hope).Get me some young blood. And then, maybe we got ourselves a ballgame.
Pallone has another Town Hall TONIGHT 7pm, Red Bank Middle School, 101 Harding Road, Red Bank, 07701. Rush Holt’s is Wed 7pm: Middletown Arts Center, 36 Church St., Middletown 07748. John Adler’s Wed 4pm: Energy Expo, Burlington County Inst. of Technology, Westampton Campus, 695 Woodlane Road, Westampton, 08060. And Adler needs your help on a course correction.