National Commentary

‘Grass Roots’ Vs. ‘Astro-Turfers’

bentonmugIt’s the real “grass roots” versus the fake “astro-turf.”

The real deal, the blue collar and millennial generation surge that swept President Obama into the White House is now being called out through the Democratic Party-led “Organizing for America” movement to mobilize support for Obama’s agenda, especially his health care reform push.

The fake deal, the big corporate money that is paying public relations firms to create the false impression of populist uprisings, is intent on disrupting the ability of the real grass roots to encounter their political leaders at town meetings all across the U.S. this month.

The Republican backers of the “astro-turfers” have written and disseminated a playbook on how to disrupt town meetings across the U.S., suggesting such things as sitting toward the front of the room to confront Democratic congressmen in order to “create the impression that a majority agrees with you.”

Two of the GOP’s most infamous high-paid PR firm “astro-turfer” entities are the DCI Group and the so-called FreedomWorks, both led by top Republicans, and having served the interests of some of the most powerful corporate interests in the land.

The DCI Group is associated with the so-called “Coalition to Protect Patient Rights,” described incredulously as “a non-profit grass roots coalition…of concerned citizens,” that has bought TV advertising to attack Obama’s health reform.

The FreedomWorks outfit, headed by former GOP Rep. Dick Armey, is the force behind a 25-city so-called Tea Party assault, aimed at disrupting town meetings hosted by Democratic congressmen.

Given last November’s election results, and the Gallup Poll showing that 71 percent of Americans want health care reform, these “astro-turf” efforts are hardly “grass roots,” but in fact, their goal is to blunt and defeat the real “grass roots.”

Rightwing fringe elements are encouraged and incited by these operations to show up at meetings where ever they can be found, with no regard for the fact they live nowhere near the districts in questions or for the interests of local constituents.

Already, the rude and tasteless tactic is showing signs of backfiring. Yesterday, a conservative Northern California newspaper that endorsed McCain last year, editorialized against the FreedomWorks’ orchestrated disruption of a town meeting held by Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson.

“The display (of rightwing hecklers-ed.) was unwelcome – and unsuccessful if it was meant to move health care reform supporters toward considering the concerns of the critics,” the Napa Register wrote. “Several callers to the Register on Tuesday reported they were repulsed by the aggressive tactics of some members of the crowd.”

Then, late yesterday, came the news that Democratic Rep. Brad Miller of North Carolina cancelled his scheduled town meetings because of a spate of threatening phone calls to his office, including one direct threat against his life.

Indeed, these crude Rovian tactics helped destroy the GOP’s chances in the general elections last year, but apparently no one has taken this to heart, undoubtedly due in part to the fact that groups like DCI and FreedomWorks have significant vested financial self-interests in selling the perpetuation of their failed models.

Of course, there is also the same “hail Mary” hysteria associated with the tactic, the same that convinced GOP operatives to put Sarah Palin on their ticket last year, as confirmed in this week’s New York Times. But like the Palin move, it will no doubt trigger an even more unsightly backfire.

On the same score, the major media outlets controlled by the same corporate interests that are freaking out on health care reform and Obama’s agenda, more generally, are demanding their sycophant mouthpieces to become uglier than ever. This is causing media watchdog groups to escalate their efforts to call out CNN for its continued employment of the increasingly-racist Lou Dobbs.

Then there are scenarios like that on CNBC Tuesday night, when it took an arch-free market announcer, an Ayn Rand Foundation spokesman and a leading GOP operative, all white males, to gang up like a pack of mad dogs to shout down one lone Democratic commentator, a woman. Such pathetic disregard for objective news reporting is only a sign of how desperate America’s ruling class is becoming.