Tea Party Succeeds In Killing an American Tradition

Remember the nationwide grassroots uprising that miraculously sprung up at town hall meetings last summer? People were furious about health care reform! Well, all of that yelling did accomplish something—the end of civil debate on the campaign trail.

Politicians got an earful last August at the height of the health care reform frenzy. Just ask Arlen Specter. Or Maryland Democrat Frank Kratovil, who was hanged in effigy while speaking with constituents during the Congressional break last summer. This year, many Democrats are sticking to scripted, invitation-only meetings and "tele-town-hall" conversations with voters in their districts to avoid angry old white people with video cameras. The New York Times visited one of Kratovil's friendly meetings, where sipping wine and eating crackers with supporters replaced deflecting geriatric Tea Party rage:

It's dramatically different this break than it was in August of last year," Mr. Kratovil said in an interview after he finished speaking about financial regulatory legislation. "At town halls, there was a group of people who were there to disrupt, purely politically driven, not there because they wanted to get answers or discuss the issues."

Leave it to a bunch of Freedom-loving Patriots to scare politicians into hiding and silence open debate. Instead of avoiding confrontations, perhaps Democrats should take a page from the Barney Frank playbook and dish it back: