Second Specter town hall draws furious protestors angry with President, Pelosi
“She had spent her lifetime in the town, and it was
easy to know who everyone was and where everyone
— John O’Hara in Ten North Frederick, a novel about life in small town Pennsylvania
I am not a Nazi
I am not a Mob
I am not a Wacko
How dare you…
Underneath the pink hat shielding her from a hot August sun, the woman was furious.
Standing in the heat outside Senator Arlen Specter’s town meeting in the small bucolic Central Pennsylvania town of Lebanon, along with a crowd estimated at over 1,000 by an astonished local policeman, she wanted to make certain something else was known. She held aloft her handmade sign, its message written as above, her fury directed at the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives. “I’m a wife, mother and a homemaker. I don’t even know anybody in the insurance business.” Pause, the obvious sense of indignant wrath searching for expression. Finally: “I really resent the fact that Nancy Pelosi has deemed me a mob and a Nazi!”
Another sign bobbed in the crowd, yet another homemade reference to a Pelosi comment questioning the authenticity of the opposition to ObamaCare. “If it’s Astroturf why are you trying to mow it?” Which raised the obvious question.
Was she sent here by someone? “No!” came the emphatic answer tinged with disgust at the sheer stupidity of the notion. No. She listened to Glenn Beck and “all of 580” —local jargon for the WHP radio affiliate that carries Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Someone else mentioned Mark Levin. But she wasn’t out here to please a voice on the radio. She was here because she was mad. This was about her country, her health care, not about Fox News.
Who, exactly, were these people who had converged in the middle of Lebanon to protest ObamaCare? Walking through the crowd, finding them waving signs as they chatted with each other, they were happy to talk. These were in fact the flesh-and-blood of John O’Hara’s Pennsylvania world. There was the registered nurse who was so incensed about the President’s plans she went on the Internet to find Senator Specter’s list of town meetings — and drove two hours from her home in Chambersburg only to find the meeting already filled. She chose to stay, her own sign held high with a scrawled message on free speech, her feet firmly planted on the street corner. There was the local small businessman, the woman who had lost a beloved sister to cancer — teary but deeply gratified that her sister had health care choices every step along the way. Her friend, a child of immigrants who arrived in 1924 — “legally” she added with a smile — shyly gave a name but preferred to think of herself as just “an American patriot.”
Art was there, the self-described “working stiff” who had taken time off from his job to come and protest the idea that he would be forced into a health care plan the “elites” (as he heatedly referred to the President and Members of Congress) refused to sign up for themselves.
Said the small businessman: “If this is such a great program….then Mr. Obama, Congress, Senate and all other federal employees should test drive — should test drive — this program. If it is so fantastic they should do it first, and then build a consensus and if it’s that great? Guess what? I’d be glad enough to pay…”
Who sent him?
“No one sent me,” he replied in the common sense tone of voice for which the area is famous.
“I took comp time just like everybody else,” said Art the working stiff, angry at the question again. “No one asked me to come.” What was he so concerned about? “With this elitist government pushing things on us…”
“And ignoring us,” came a new voice, this belonging to a woman who worked with Lebanon’s disabled. The thought of disabled children left to the mercies of a government bureaucrat intent on rationing care caused the woman to shudder.
Inside, Arlen Specter was taking 30 questions, most, as befits the general well-mannered nature of Central Pennsylvanians, polite if forceful. Only one man invited an invitation to leave, instantly making himself cable fodder. “You have awakened a sleeping giant,” said a 35-year old woman captured on camera who confessed she had not heretofore paid much attention to things political.
Specter, who is nothing if not a familiar face in Pennsylvania politics, surely knew this. He has routinely scheduled August town meetings throughout his record-five terms in the Senate, frequently lining them up in multiples. This day he was scheduled to push on north to Lewisburg and Bucknell University for a repeat performance. The difference this time was that there was no scurrying of staff to round up attendees. This time, Pennsylvanians wanted — demanded — to talk. The sleeping giant was indeed awake.
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