Monday, August 3, 2009

Kagen's Green Bay Town Hall pt. 2

This is part 2. Part 1 is here.

Once I got into the auditorium it was clear that the reports from those leaving had been correct. Sentiment in the hall was tremendously negative. 300 angry people shouting and clapping also generated tremendous heat and the room was sweltering.

Kagen read questions from cards completed by attendees. For the most part the questions feel into five broad categories (in no particular order): government control of health care; out of control government spending; coverage for illegal aliens; coverage of abortion; tort reform.

Of the four, abortion was the least mentioned, but there was a large applause line during one abortion related exchange. Mr. Kagen was explaining that an individuals health care can affect those around him. Specifically, that in the past one child infected with polio could go to school and infect others. In response, someone in the crowd yelled out, "they have to be born first."

Regardless of what the questions were, almost every one was greeted with shouts of derision. If the question itself was particularly negative, cheering would often begin before Kagen had finished reading it, drowning out his voice.

I could closely survey at least one quarter of the auditorium and from what I could see there were only two people in that area that were willing to clap or shout in support of Kagen. The rest were clearly against anything that Kagen had to say. Many of these felt no reluctance to shout during both the questions and answers. Sometimes the outbursts included pleas to leave health care alone or to read the bill, sometimes they would accuse Kagen of lying outright.

It was clear that many in the crowd had researched portions of the bill, or had at least referred to sources that discussed the bills provision. An older gentleman seated next to me told me that this was the first town hall he had been to. I could see that he had printed out some information about the health care bill, that included citations to specific sections. He had also taken notes in the margins.

There were some signs posted at the entrance to the auditorium stating that the Brown County Library didn't allow the display of political signs and these were being confiscated at the door. This did little to dampen the crowd's enthusiasm. I did see one person asked to stop handing out political literature in the lobby, though owing to the amount of chaos at the scene some dissemination of literature did occur. As I noted, though, many people came prepared with their own information, so this was largely not a factor.

Eventually, Kagen departed from the question cards and started taking questions directly from audience members. This was far superior to the card method and did allow for some give and take between the audience and Kagen. It also quieted some of the shouting, at least during the questions, as most were willing to let people speak since it was clear most people were against the health care reform bill.

This questioning allowed the topic to shift during the last half hour when two longer questions were asked about Kagen's Cap and Trade vote. Both of the questions were similar in that the questioners indicated they had called Kagen's office prior to the vote to express their disapproval. They basically wanted to know how Kagen could vote for Cap and Trade after, what they saw, as overwhelming support against it within the district. I don't believe they ever got that specific question answered, since the questions also revolved around the paper industry and Kagen was able to tout his fight against unfair Chinese imports of paper. If nothing else, the questions go to show that it is not just the health care issue that people are worried about.

This largely describes the scene tonight. I'll deal with some brief conclusions in part 3.

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