My, this town-hall rabble certainly is poorly dressed

The agitated souls regularly bring up the fact that members of Congress have platinum-level health care plans. They demand to know whether congressmen will sign on to the much-maligned and still undefined public option that is part of the reform discussion. The underlying focus of this grudge match is, of course, about power — as concentrated in Congress, the presidency, the special interests, the wealthy. The rage emerges from a feeling of helplessness that some version of reform is going to occur whether these citizens like it or not.

That sentiment is underscored in photo after photo. The common man, in his T-shirt and jeans, is shouting passionately at “the suit.” In the videos from these meetings, audio is unnecessary. It’s clear who’s in charge and who is shouting into the wind.

What would happen if all those unhappy townspeople showed up for these meetings in suit jackets, like high school debaters prepared to take on their opponents with facts and nimble intellect rather than histrionics? Would they garner more respect? Would they compel more lawmakers to rethink their positions rather than merely repeat, again and again — in a voice that has the tone of an impatient kindergarten teacher — the same core points? Would legislators stop telling that condescending anecdote about how people profess their love for government-run Medicare even as they, in the same breath, express their distrust and disdain for government-run medical care? (Maybe snot-nosed mockery is an instinctive response to illogic, but it’s not the most productive way to assuage those who fear the unknown.)