Who are the Town Hall Protestors?

‘They're un-American," says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "They're spreading lies and distortions," says senior White House adviser David Axelrod. They are "being funded and organized by out-of-district special-interest groups and insurance companies," says the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

"They," as you probably guessed, are the concerned citizens who've shown up at town-hall meetings across the country to express their displeasure over what President Barack Obama and the Democrats are about to do to our health-care system. But who are they really? What motivates them? And why are they so angry?

I believe my colleagues and I are in an excellent position to answer those questions. For the past two months the National Center for Policy Analysis (the think tank I run) and Salem Communications (which employs such talk-show hosts as Mike Gallagher, Bill Bennett and Michael Medved) have been sponsoring an online petition at http://www.freeourhealthcarenow.com/ for those who wish to express their opposition to nationalized health care. In the process we've collected more than 1.1 million signatures and we're in email communication with many on a weekly basis.

Read the full explanation in an article I recently wrote for the Wall Street Journal.

Comments (13)

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  1. Ken says:

    Great editorial, John.

  2. Devon Herrick says:

    Many of our Congressional leaders are out-of-touch with the beliefs and values of the average American. Making matters worse, our leaders are also unfamiliar with the laws of economics.

  3. Larry C. says:

    I think it’s the other side that is fostering astroturf demonstrations — paying people to show up.

  4. Doug Baker says:

    Mr. Goodman:

    Great WSJ article, but I don’t think you are right about healthcare reform objector’s anger.

    I have lots of firsthand experience and education in group dynamics and persuasion. Frustration is the generally the precursor to most expressions of anger. I have watched the town hall meeting carefully and am convinced these groups first become frustrated and only then become angry and disorderly because they are being provoked.

    The provocations are that the speakers evade answering their specific questions, keep giving answers people know are factually inaccurate or partial truths, and respond to people as though they know what’s better for the people in attendance than the people themselves. Would it be accurate to say that only the latter can be considered the kind of arrogance you are referring to in your article? In other words, is the primary cause of the anger people being manipulated and lied to?

  5. Jack Witkin says:

    Solution to the health care issue:

    1. Reduce costs:
    (a) Eliminate 90% of the paper work involved (mostly as a result of legal costs – see Tort Reform), (b) Tort Reform, (c) Eliminate illegal aliens use of the health care system – unless they pay for it.

    2. How to cover the costs:
    (a) Every individual taxpayer deducts $10,000 from the bottom line of their Income Tax Bill (double if joint) [A family should be able to purchase health insurance for $20,000 / year]**; If the tax bill is less than $10,000 – the IRS will refund the difference and (b) If a person does not file a tax return they are out of luck; ** Everyone should be encouraged to carry catastrophic coverage.

    If the insurance companies, the hospitals and the medical practitioners did not have to be concerned with excessive awards in legal cases regarding health care and if the loser had to pay in a civil action, health insurance costs would drop dramatically.

    The government has no business in any business other than provided for in The Constitution … haven’t we learned anything in 250 years at the inefficiency of the government.

  6. Mo says:

    The recent health care “debate,” in which the Democrats called those who would oppose the so-called health care “reform” everything from racists to “evil-mongers” shows the left’s preferred method of discussion.

  7. Bart Ingles says:

    Doug Baker, you really hit the nail on the head. I could be one of those frustrated citizens, if I could force myself to listen to these hacks for longer than 30 seconds at a time.

    Good op-ed as well.

  8. Neil H. says:

    I think I also agree with Doug Baker.

  9. Erin, Kansas says:

    I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis THIS YEAR. My injections cost over $2000 MONTHLY. Now that I have a PRE-EXISTING CONDITION, – will you, the PROTESTERS, PAY for the medicine I will NEED for the REST OF MY LIFE if I want to further my career at a different company?!!
    Private insurance penalizes those with chronic health conditions!!! I pay taxes. Why should I not be able to get health insurance?!? If YOU will not help me pay for my lifelong medical condition, then you should keep your insurance as Obama has said SEVERAL TIMES, and I should be able to get help through the reform Obama is pushing.
    YOU PROTESTERS are basically saying that anyone with a chronic condition has to stay at the job they currently are with. I shouldn’t be punished into staying at my current job just because IF I LEAVE IT I WONT BE ABLE TO GET HEALTH INSURANCE BECAUSE NOW I HAVE A PRE-EXISTING CONDTION.

  10. Joe S. says:

    Erin: you must be new to this site.

    1. If health insurance were real insurance,you would not have a problem. Have you ever heard of someone losing life insurance because of a diagnosis or a change of jobs? This is probably the only health blog that has consistently advocated genuine personal and portable health insurance.

    2. That being said, you still have all the protections of HIPAA under current law. If you go to work for another company, they cannot deny you coverage.

    3. Obama is not going to leave everyone else alone, as promised. Haven’t you noticed? Congress is about to nationalize the entire health care system. It’s going to muck up everyone’s health insurance.

    4. Finally, there is no evidence in your message that you are less selfish than anyone else. To the contrary.

  11. Mo says:


    People with pre-existing conditions today are in quite a predicament. But don’t blame “corporate insurers” for this problem — blame the politicians (and their stooges in business) who advocated the controls that mostly destroyed the long-term insurance market.

    Forcing insurance companies to ignore pre-existing conditions forces those without such conditions to subsidize others through higher insurance premiums. One consequence of such political controls is to price many out of the insurance market altogether.
    Various insurance controls discourage long-term health policies.

    We’re in a bad situation. But we don’t improve matters by expanding the same sorts of controls that created the problems in the first place. Political controls are the disease masquerading as the cure.

  12. Bob says:

    You may want to respond to this article:

    Health care abroad: the myths

  13. Linda Gorman says:


    Like every other state, Kansas has a way for uninsurable people with pre-existing conditions to get health insurance if they need to leave a group plan.

    It is paid for by the protestors you are abusing via health insurance premiums and taxes.

    You can find the website at http://www.khiastatepool.com/default.asp.

    Kansas has health care programs for the medically indigent with diseases like MS. People with severe MS also qualify for Social Security Disability and Medicaid.

    Linda Gorman