This week’s town hall disruptions aren’t simply tantalizing (and at time disturbing) episodes of anti-government activism. They’re also object lessons in how political interests enlist human and technological resources to build political pressure while those responsible remain safely behind the curtain.
Take, for instance, the blow email, obtained by TPMDC.
Last month, Tom Gaitens, a FreedomWorks field manager posted a spreadsheet containing contact information for Blue Dogs and their chiefs of staff, to a tea party organizers list serv that he manages.“I’ve been calling the Blue Dogs,” wrote one activist in response. “I’m going to start emailing because it can be done after government business hours and over the weekend.”
I’m going to use the list you sent out in an Excel file. It not only has the COS [Chief of Staff] list but it has all of the Blue Dogs, not just those on Energy and Commerce.
I think it would be best to send each cos a separate email rather than sending a single letter to multiple addresses. I think the latter would not appear to be grassroots and would have far less effect.
This was sent Friday, July 24, just as Blue Dogs on the House Energy and Commerce Committee–no doubt inundated with calls from both within and outside their districts–were stalling, and seeking to weaken, Democratic health care legislation.
Similarly, members of Congress are now receiving the following form email from conservative constituents:
Dear Representative XXX:
Some friends and I would like to meet with you during the August recess to discuss ObamaCare. Please send me a schedule of your Townhall meetings so we will be able to attend.
If you aren’t holding Townhall meetings, I would still like a meeting with you.
Please respond to my request.
And we all know what they’re doing once the town halls get underway.
There’s nothing necessarily out of bounds about these sorts of activities–this is how a lot of political organizing works. But it’s worth laying out the anatomy of the operation, especially when it’s presented by conservatives, and some in the media, as a spontaneous grass roots revolt, untouched by the influence of central actors.