Jason Chaffetz had a pretty bad time at his last town hall in Cottonwood Heights. The raucous crowd barely let him respond to questions, constantly booed, and made national headlines for it. Chaffetz later claimed that the event was packed with paid protesters, something that provoked immediate ire because of the apparent ridiculousness of the statement. And yet, it seems there’s a kernel of truth behind the accusation. You see, these protesters weren’t paid, but they sure do seem to have a lot of paid organizers directing them.
The lead organization responsible for the raucous time is Indivisible, a group founded by former Democratic congressional staffers. They’ve also organized as a 501(c)(4) political group, something you only do when someone is going to get paid. Right off the bat, the effort is being conducted in largely partisan tones, engaging groups like MoveOn and explicitly targeting Republicans, not specific policies. Now it comes out that they are also coordinating with Organizing for Action, what the Obama campaign machine morphed into after his election. It’s kind of hard to accept at face value that the protests are spontaneous and grassroots.
While I’ve seen comparisons to the Tea Party movement, I think there’s enough to distinguish the two. Whereas the Tea Party was a reaction to specific policies (TARP and the stimulus being chief among them), this is a reaction to election results. The Tea Party started as grassroots and was co-opted by a variety of people looking to cash in, but this was professionally organized from the very start replete with plenty of celebrity endorsements and participation.
I don’t doubt for a moment that the people who are showing up to protest are sincere. But they are also being used by partisan interests for partisan purposes. This feeds right into the team sports mentality that’s created so many Vichy Republicans who are probably going to be more likely to double down on their support than to reconsider it. It also does nothing to replace those same Vichy Republicans sitting in safe districts with ones who recognize the danger posed by the proto-fascist. Heaven knows I have a number of differences with Chaffetz and would like to see a competent challenger, but if you think that’s going to come in the form of a Democrat you’ve been spending too much time in a Denver pot shop.