When President Barack Obama and his congressional Democratic majority were proposing radical changes to the country's financial and health care systems, the tea party made waves across the country with outspoken protests and fiery town hall meetings.
Now, Slate's Dave Weigel asks this quintessential question: "If the [GOP Rep. Paul] Ryan budget is so unpopular, where are the town-hall meltdowns?"
These are good days to be a member of Congress. Your job is not popular, per se, and neither is the institution you work for. But at least you're not getting yelled at. A controversial Republican budget just passed the House, you're home in your district, and the anger that curdled town hall meetings for members of the last Congress is really nowhere to be seen.
Take the case of Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa. He's a freshman who won an open Democratic seat last year—a seat that John Kerry won by six percentage points and that Barack Obama carried by 13. He's the subject of a muckraking blog, The Meehan Report, which has video from before the election of the congressman being asked about Rep. Paul Ryan's plans to privatize Medicare. "That's the agenda I'm not voting for," said Meehan. He proceeded to vote for it.
Yet the reaction at home has not been ugly. Today, Meehan held a widely publicized town hall in the town of Radnor. Twenty people showed up. They were not all happy, and there was one constituent annoyed that Meehan "never answered the question" about the budget. But there was no reaction worthy of YouTube, nothing for cable news.
Weigel is obviously not sympathetic to the tea party cause, but does bring up an excellent point. Democratic talking points dictate that the Republican budget plan is so "extreme," yet the public's response against the plan has been majorly subdued, especially when compared to the tea party's groundswell in opposition of ObamaCare.
Polls suggest that the GOP has an uphill battle to get the kind of reforms passed that Ryan proposes, but does the lack of real public opposition signal that the country is ready for real change?