I went out to the Holt Town Hell tonight in Middletown. I really just went to observe and photograph the madness, and to see if it really was as bad as what I’ve been reading.
Before I get to describing what I saw, I’d say that Holt’s event planning people are incompetent. The location was not in a town where Holt enjoys his liberal base. The event should have been held closer to Hopewell where Holt could bring out his people. Second, the venue was far too small. The result was that the spillover crowd of a couple of hundred people (and press) was a captive audience for the Republican challenger,a guy named Halfacre, who held an outdoor rally on the lawn that all these people attended. He might get better press than Holt. Third, Holt must have known that the Town Hell folks would be out in force – I saw nothing to anticipate or manage that surge, or capitalize on political organizing opportunities with folks in line. In contrast, Holt’s Republican challenger, a Monmouth County Freeholder candidate, and several right wing groups were aggressively working people in the lines. Media journo’s and photographers were disproportionately talking to wingers, and there didn’t seem to be an effort made by progressives to work the media at the event.
I talked to probably 50 people – exactly 5 had a perspective similar to mine. I tried to talk to listen to where they’re at. I think people are right to be angry about where the country is going, – loss of jobs, houses, savings, retirement, kids college opportunities,Wall Street bailout, war, deindustrialization, destruction of the middle class, et al.
But all this anger and resentment is being channeled against democrats, government, and immigrants. I think it is obvious that people are being manipulated by corporate and media elites and right wing strategists. But when you try to talk about this, you come off as a conspiracy nut. There was non – none – zero – organized response to these people’s legitimate concerns I could see..
I’d say that various schools of anti-Obama outnumbered rational pro-healthcare (the topic of the meeting) folks by at least 10 to 1. Signs were 20 to 1 in favor of wingers.
I got there at 4:30 (for a 7 pm meeting). There was a long line. Only 238 people were allowed in. I didn’t get in.
The up front and personal reality of seeing and talking to many shameful and ignorant people is far, far worse than what I’ve read. There were people calling Obama a Nazi, signs saying he was killing their daughter, and all sorts of insults against liberals, labor unions, immigrants, environmentalists – even some openly celebrating Ted Kennedy’s death. One thug was shouting at the top of his lungs – and the crowd applauded.
Here are the words I jotted down as I took photographs of the event:
hatred, ignorance, fear, ugly, resentment, nativist, jingoist, vulgarity, thugs, shameful, group solidarity.
Overall, very scary dynamic.