Blue Dog: Hey, this town-hall anger seems pretty real to me

Democrats may want to spin the August anger in their districts as nothing more than conservative Astroturfing against a popular health-care reform plan, but they’re whistling in the wind — and one of their own warns them to start paying attention.  Rep. Allen Boyd (D-FL) represents a Panhandle district, and when he sees his constituents taking time off of work in the sweltering heat to see a politican, he knows they’re unhappy.  They don’t trust Congress or the administration to get this right, and he didn’t need to see the stack of pink slips to figure it out:

But as he fended off gnats buzzing through the August humidity after a morning fending off angry constituents at a town hall meeting here, Boyd confided that the depth of the unease spurred by the health care debate had caught him by surprise.

“They may be in a minority, but they are a larger minority than we’ve seen in the 20-plus years that I’ve been doing this,” said Boyd of the standing-room-only crowds who have been showing up to shout, boo, mutter and, in one case, hand him an actual stack of pink slips since he returned home for recess. “I’ve never seen anything like this.” …

A visit to Florida’s 2nd District also is a bracing case study in the mounting political peril some Blue Dogs like Boyd may be facing. Boyd acknowledged that after coasting to victory in a string of elections, including when a popular President George W. Bush was on top of the ticket in 2004 and national Republicans actively plotted his ouster, he may face a real threat next year at the polls.

And his candor is borne out of his own up-close view from the past three weeks. While some of his colleagues took refuge in constituent-free codels and undisclosed private meetings, Boyd plunged headlong into a series of public forums throughout his district and discovered the sort of public unrest that doesn’t come around very often.

“People are scared,” Boyd said twice, trying to explain what would drive his constituents away from home and work and out into the broiling Florida sun in the middle of the week to see their congressman.

Why are people scared?  The government is about to take over one-sixth of the nation’s economy, even though soaring deficits make it clear that it can’t properly handle what’s on the plate now.  It just fumbled a stimulus package and a program to kill old cars, and somehow people have the notion that this competence will continue with something more vital — their health care.  They don’t want the government in charge of those decisions and invading their personal lives.  The only surprise here is that elected officials didn’t see this coming, although clearly the White House had an inkling — which is why they tried to rush the bill through to a vote.

The ones who should be scared are the incumbents heading back to Capitol Hill in a couple of weeks.  Boyd sounds like he at least got the wake-up call.

Michelle notes that people should check with the website Recess Rally to find any organized demonstrations near you.  Let’s keep sending the message until all of our elected representatives hear it loud and clear.

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