NYT: Keep Off the Astroturf
WITH the “public option” part of President Obama’s health care reform plan looking dead in the water, many of its supporters are taking issue with the legitimacy of its opposition. “We call it ‘Astroturf,’ ” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said of the protesters at town-hall meetings. “It’s not really a grass-roots movement.”
What exactly is Astroturf supposed to mean? Typically, that, in the absence of widespread support for a position, some unseen entity manufactures the appearance of it. But is that really what’s happening here?
Here’s a rule: Organizing isn’t cheating. Doing everything in your power to get your people to show up is basic politics. If they believe what they’re saying, no matter who helped organize them, they’re citizens and activists. The language at the town halls may get ugly and rough. But it’s not Astroturf.
I go into the history of Astroturf, from Julius Caesar to Samuel Adams to the coal industry. Some astroturfing is genuinely over the line — fake letters from constituents, for instance. But what the Democrats have been complaining about — essentially, getting people out to protests — is simply what politics is about.
For the cognitive reasons discussed in last week’s post linked above, creating the impression of “consensus” is one of the most important things you can do in politics. You can’t cry foul just because the other side’s doing a better job of it.