Opinion: To Pelosi, healthcare protests are ‘display of the democratic process’

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We’ve all heard about those noisy protests greeting Democratic lawmakers trying to drum up support for President Obama’s health plan. One might assume all the noise is coming from opponents of the plan. As it turns out, that’s not the case.

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats toured a homeless clinic in Colorado this week, supporters of the plan matched the opponents shout for shout, sign for sign, hollering their own slogans at the afternoon traffic passing the Stout Street Clinic in downtown Denver.


Barred from entering the center where Pelosi addressed the news media and homeless advocates Thursday, the protesters on both sides of the debate mingled on the sidewalk. And here’s the interesting thing: They did so with relatively little of the hostility with which crowds have met Democrats making similar pitches at town hall meetings around the country.

One supporter, Vicki Rottman, found herself standing among opponents on the crowded sidewalk.
“I was able to talk to people whose views were different than mine. They seemed passionate, but willing to listen,” said Rottman, 63, a Denver artist who carried a sign reading, “Everybody In, Nobody Out.”

Over the din of the crowd, she said her insurance, which she buys for herself, has grown increasingly expensive. Since a battle with breast cancer, she said, she doubts another company would accept her.

Down the block, Dan Davidson, 56, hoisted a sign featuring ...

... a frothy mug of beer and the words “Obama Care: A Poisoned Beer Summit,” which he said prompted one health reform supporter to accuse him of being uneducated.

The owner of a machine tool repair shop who provides insurance for six employees, he said he’s found a health savings account plan with which he’s satisfied. The government doesn’t belong in the business of health coverage, he said, adding that Obama’s plan is “fatally flawed.”

Inside the clinic, which has received federal stimulus money, Pelosi said people should educate themselves about the details of the plan, which she touted as one that would retain choice, lower costs and force private companies to offer cheaper premiums. She downplayed the demonstrations -- calling them “a display of the democratic process” -- and dismissed suggestions of a rift within the party over the plan. “This is called the legislative process,” she said.


As she and Colorado Reps. Diana DeGette and Jared Polis hurriedly entered a waiting car, demonstrators crowded near, trying to catch a glimpse.

“Just say no!” opponents yelled through the gate separating them from the vehicle.

“Hey, hey, the status quo has got to go,” supporters hollered back.

As Pelosi said, it was a display of the Democratic process.

-- DeeDee Correll

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Top photo: Protesters in Denver on Thursday. Bottom photo: Nancy Pelosi meets Dr. Malcolm Tarkanian at the Stout Street Clinic. Credit: Associated Press