Gail Collins has a column today arguing among other things that the Obama administration should shift strategy by discouraging supporters from showing up at health care town halls, thus allowing lunatic protesters to appear more insane.
Speaking of bad plans, the White House has been urging the Democrats to rally their own forces of placard-waving, sweaty, yelling supporters to confront the crazies. This makes no sense at all. It’s not often that members of Congress look as sympathetic as they’ve been lately on YouTube, surrounded by loud and unlovable hecklers. In fact, the best chance for health care reform may be to sell it as the thing that those people pounding on the doors of a town meeting in Tampa and screaming at the fire marshals don’t want.
I understand the thinking here, but it’s exactly wrong. Health care reform isn’t an election, it’s a legislative battle where supporters must rely on other people to vote for them. That is, it’s not as if reform advocates who remain silent can simply put these nuts in their place by showing up at the polls to vote directly. Accordingly, if members of Congress come away with the impression — or at least, are marginally inclined to believe — that a relatively small number of deluded paranoids represent a substantive chunk of the population it’ll give them cover to vote agaisnt reform or weaken legislation. Conversely, if reform advocates come out in empassioned numbers, mebers of Congress are more likely to come away with a better understanding of the state of play. Hopefully they’ll vote accordingly.