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The American Way – Honest Debate

All politicians at one time or another have faced heated debate.  That is the American way.  Thomas Jefferson probably said it best “The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed.  The agitation it produces must be submitted to.”  If our founding fathers recognized and spoke out in favor of dissent how is it that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer call Americans who engage in raucous dissent “un-American?”

Evidently, Pelosi and Hoyer would rather remain in the ivory tower that Washington DC has become rather than listen to the voices of Americans who oppose the Health Care bill that no one has bothered to read.  It is far easier for Pelosi and Hoyer to stifle dissent and call the American people names than it is to debate a bill that they haven’t read.  For them to claim that opponents of the President’s health care bill are disrupting townhalls across the country by “drowning out the facts” is disingenuous to say the least.

Jefferson discussed debate hundreds of years ago when he said “Difference of opinion leads to enquiry, and enquiry to truth; and that, I am sure is the ultimate and sincere object.  We value too much the freedom of opinion sanctioned by our Constitution, not to cherish its exercise even where in opposition to ourselves.”  It’s too bad our Congressional leaders have never read anything about Thomas Jefferson.  They could learn a lot.

Raucous debate is nothing new to this great country.  Sometimes the tone and tenor of the discussions get out of control.  But it is interesting to me that none of the confrontations turned violent until allies of the Democrats got involved.  In fact, wasn’t it a White House advisor who told Democrats, “if you get punched, we will punch back twice as hard?”

None of us like to see meetings turn violent, or even see them get out of control.  But every public official must respect the right of the people to be heard.  Dissent and public debate are part of the First Amendment.  Public officials who seek to silence public debate are the ones hurting our country, and they are the ones forgetting some of our founding principles.

Cross posted at Tom Ganley for US Senate.

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