I mention all of this to provide some background to Heldman's latest appearance on the O'Reilly Factor last night. At the video, O'Reilly talks to both Scott Rasmussen (of Rasmussen Reports) and Professor Heldman. The discussion follows the Talking Points segment. Rasmussen gives an accurate background analysis of what's happening with President Obama's public support on key issues, and particularly the recent surge in public opposition to ObamaCare.
Both O'Reilly and Rasmussen argue that the tea parties/town halls are having an effect on the Obama administration. Basically, as public support for the grassroots demonstrators has gone up, pubic backing for the ObamaCare fiasco has gone down. Heldman first shakes her head in agreement with Rasmussen, but when O'Reilly asks her, "as a political scientist," what she thinks is happening, Heldman argues that the protests are related to a "broader concern" with "the loss of healthcare." But actually, polls have showed that roughly 8 out of 10 Americans are satisfied with the quality of their healthcare and their insurance coverage.
Then, when O'Reilly continues, saying Americans are very clear on ObamaCare ("they don't want it"), Heldman comes back with, "I disagree with you ... we need a piece of legislation first. And what's needed prior to producing legislation is democratic debate. And what's happening at these healthcare forums is folks are coming and shutting down debate. So I don't think people know much about healthcare ..."
Professor Heldman concludes with some spurious comparison to "healthcare lobbies" in 1993, which purportedly distorted the Clinton adminstration's reform program away from "the best interest" of the public. (I gather that would be single-payer nationalization.)
Watch the video. Heldman shows all kinds of exasperated body language to indicate her frustration with the way the discussion's going. But she's clearly wrong on facts, and most importantly, she's badly misinformed with what's happening today on the conservative street with regards to the town halls.
From my perspective, as a blogger and a teaching political scientist, this year's been one of the most incredible learning experiences on democratic participation in American life. Americans aren't buying the left-wing smears of tea-partyers as astroturfed mobs. USA Today's poll this week was particulary telling. The survey indicated, by 2-to-1 margin, a shift in public sympathy toward the town hall demonstrators. Fifty-one percent said the town halls are an example of "democracy in action." Certainly Professor Heldman's entitled to her opinion, but as she's a political scientist, I'd expect her to have a more rigorous grasp of survey trends if she's going to be speaking on the topic as an expert.
Also, in a related development, Michelle Malkin reports that John L. Jackson, Jr., who holds the majesterial title of Richard Perry University Associate Professor of Communication and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, has attacked Malkin's book, Culture of Corruption, as a "hate crime: "That's the implicit message of this screed from the Chronicle of Higher Education."
Jackson's piece is titled, "The Rising Stakes of Obamaphobia." And once again, we see the same lefist canards and ignorant characterizations of the protests. Jackson at one point argues that:
A relatively small group of like-minded people can have a disproportionate impact on our collective public stage, especially if they make effective use of new media technologies ....It turns out that Professor Jackson has apparently made his academic mark with this kind of bull-hockey analysis. He's the author of Racial Paranoia: The Unintended Consequences of Political Correctness, yet another argument for the "hidden," "unseen" racism that's allegedly destroying our country.
Americans' current "run on guns" isn't just about a potential change in national policy around gun control and the right to bear arms. Some of it also seems to be predicated on an uptick in right-wing militias and their renewed calls for a "race war." Part of it is about a kind of "racial paranoia" linked to economic insecurities, a racial paranoia that pivots on a growing social movement around reactionary racial politicking.
It can't be said enough - and I attest to this as both an activist and an analyst - that the right's grassroots movement is really unprecedented in recent years. Folks in the left-wing media and the radical academy are doing themselves tremendous harm in misunderstanding what's really happening, and in disrespecting that which they don't understand.
It's bothersome, frankly. I wish I'd known back in 1992 what I know now about politics and ideology. I might have done some things differently in life. On the bright side, recent experiences in blogging and political activism are making me a better professor.