Friday, August 14, 2009

Professor Caroline Heldman Clueless on Politics of Town Halls

I first saw Professor Caroline Heldman last year, on the O'Reilly Factor, in the weeks before the November election. According to her information page, she is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Occidental College. Professor Heldman co-edited a book on feminist electoral politics (Rethinking Madam President: Are We Ready for a Woman in the White House?). She also published an article at Ms. Magazine last year, "Out-of-Body Image: Women See Themselves Through Eyes of Others." Her 2005 curriculum vitae lists two other books, but they don't turn up on a Google search. Heldman holds a Ph.D. from Rutgers University. She took a Bachelor's in Business Administration from Washington State University in 1993.

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 ....

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 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.

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.


Steve Burri said...

I can agree with Jackson's one statement:

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 ....

I don't think he is thinking of the same small group I am, however.

Rich Casebolt said...

Two questions for Prof. Heldman:

1> If we don't have a piece of legislation to debate yet, then what's on those thousand pages our Congresscritters are supposed to be reading right now ... or does it only become "legislation" when they actually READ it?

2> Is debate that legitimizes intellectual dishonesty, real debate at all?

It is the demand for such honesty -- not a desire to shut off debate -- that drives people like me to shout it down whenever/wherever it appears.


brandonalane said...

Remember in 6th grade when you were suppose to write a book report, and you were first asked to provide a rough draft that would outline your thoughts and ideas, and then revise into the final product? That's what these 1000+ pages are, a rough draft outline that needs to be adjusted, whcih is what the Congress has been and will continue to keep doing. The important part is that when it's all said and done, we have health care reform that will accomplish the following things.

1) Insure the 50 million americans currently without insurance, whether it's because of a preexisting condition or they can't afford it or they are to lazy to get it.
2) Give employers and individuals a lower cost option if there current provider is too expensive.
3) Contain costs so all of our taxes will go down in the long run.

We spend over $250 Billion dollars a year providing emergency room health care to the uninsured. Another $290 billion goes to the profits and overhead of private, for-profit insurance companies. That's over half a trillion dollars that could be used to insure the uninsured, provide better preventative care, and reward our doctors for curing sickness, not running tests.

I believe a public (medicare choice for all) plan is the best way to accomplish this, and if it bankrupts the insurance companies, so be it. What value do the insurance companies really bring to the table anyways, except profit off of our quest to be healthy? As Obama stated, this is the time for all of us to hear all suggestions, whether it's a co-op plan, a public option, or regulating the private companies, and then adjust the bill in the house and senate to come up with one plan that will address all the healthcare goals and contain costs.

Unknown said...

I just listened to this woman on Bill O'Reilly and it took her 3 minutes and 2 examples from Bill explaining that you can't FORCE people to buy things! WOW. She's got a PH.D. Can you imagine how long it would have taken her to understand if she didn't have her degrees? LOL!
Caroline, lay off the bleach!

Wayne said...

Ms. Heldman needs to stop bleaching her hair...the peroxide has fried most, if not all, of her brain cells.