What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.
Saturday was the final day for politicians to speak at the Des Moines Register’s Iowa State Fair “soapbox.” You can view all of this year’s videos here. Heckling was the running theme from yesterday’s appearances. O.Kay Henderson summarized the incidents at Radio Iowa.
I have zero sympathy for Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, whom protesters repeatedly interrupted to demand more Democratic presidential debates. Wasserman-Schultz had nothing new to say on the soapbox–certainly nothing as newsworthy as the DNC’s asinine policy limiting the presidential candidates to only six sanctioned debates, with the threat of exclusion if they participate in any unsanctioned ones. The DNC’s position serves no public interest whatsoever. It only creates the appearance of the party establishment putting a thumb on the scale for current front-runner Hillary Clinton. All Democrats, including Clinton, could benefit from starting the debates before October. In sharp contrast to the Donald Trump freak show dominating the other side’s discourse, Democrats have five (perhaps soon to be six) candidates who can talk intelligently about policy.
A group of protesters from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals provided some drama by storming the soapbox while New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was taking questions. Tactics like those make PETA one of the most ineffective advocacy organizations I’ve seen. Christie deserves criticism for vetoing a New Jersey ban on gestation crates for sows, which passed with massive bipartisan support. But PETA only managed to generate sympathy for the governor. He came up with a great line after law enforcement pulled the animal rights activists off-stage:
“I have to tell you the truth when something like that happens and I’m here in Iowa, man, I feel right at home. It feels like I’m back in Jersey for a couple of minutes, so thank you, Iowa, for doing that,” Christie said to cheers from the crowd.
On the other hand, a little heckling that doesn’t go over the top can throw a candidate off his or her game. The best example was the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member who got Mitt Romney to say, “Corporations are people, my friend,” at the 2011 Iowa State Fair. Democrats across the country eagerly made use of Romney’s gaffe. Within a matter of weeks, though, Iowa CCI members’ heckling of Senator Chuck Grassley at a town-hall in Carroll drew criticism from Iowa Democratic Party leaders for going too far.
Politically engaged people tend to have strong feelings about what kinds of protests are appropriate. Pat Rynard used unusually harsh language to condemn the activists who disrupted Wasserman-Schultz’s speech. John Deeth has long expressed contempt for Iowa CCI’s “counterproductive” tactics. Though I’ve never heckled a politician at a public event, my take on what I viewed as the Iowa Democratic Party’s “hippie-punching” of Iowa CCI generated one of the most heated comment threads in Bleeding Heartland’s eight-year history.
When, if ever, do you think heckling is a justified and/or effective political tactic?