BY DALE DENWALT
When I arrived at U.S. Rep. Dan Boren’s Town Hall meeting in Muskogee, I walked upstairs to find two ladies standing side-by-side next to the door. One held a sign announcing a “tea party,” and the other held a stack of pro-president, pro-health insurance reform signs. The latter was very refreshing to see, considering the hatred and uniform opposition to the Democratic plan that’s being shown in the media.
A couple of hundred or so people, mostly elderly and middle-age, crowded into the meeting hall where the congressman would be speaking. I immediately saw several pro-reform signs, which outnumbered signs in opposition. I was surprised to recognize a few faces there, including interim Oklahoma Democratic Party Vets Committee Chair Dennis Weese, ODP Communications/New Media Director Karina Henderson and Mike McNutt, a Capitol reporter for the Oklahoman.
It was good to hear Rep. Boren, D-OK, say he supports health insurance reform, although he emphatically said he is against the public option. He said he supports the one thing that will definitely be in the final version of the bill, that people cannot be turned away for “pre-existing conditions.” He also passionately cited statistics on the number of uninsured, so it seemed he wants the final legislation to go a long way toward helping insure every American.
There were a couple of things that disappointed me. Some of the citizens who got up to ask questions read verbatim from what looked like Internet printouts. Likely, they snooped around on right-wing Web sites or got chain e-mails full of lies and half-truths. When several people asked about already-busted rumors about the bill – one person said ACORN could access your bank account – Rep. Boren made no attempt to correct the misinterpretation or even point out that there is a lot of misinformation floating around.
There is a fine line between correcting someone’s statement and defending a bill you’re not going to vote for anyway. I just wish, at the very least, Rep. Boren would have mentioned that in the course of political opposition to reform, facts sometimes get distorted.
I applaud Rep. Boren for holding town hall meetings. Ultimately, the vote he casts on health insurance reform will play a big role in the next general election, so it would be wise to consider the beliefs of his constituents.
What we have to do as Democratic Party activists and workers is spread information to counter the misinformation, tell the truth to our friends, neighbors and relatives about what health insurance reform really means for America, and do so in a tone that is civil, tolerant and, above all, honest.
In these discussions we may be faced with shouting matches and insults, but we have the moral responsibility to calmly disagree, debate and speak in turn. I would not want liberal Democrats acting like fools just to make a point, while our friends on the opposite side of the spectrum do the same.
Just because we have better ideas doesn’t mean we are better people. Let’s act like it.
– Dale Denwalt is president of Young Democrats of Oklahoma and a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer