Can you imagine healthcare town halls in North Korea?
Despite raucous moments, we're witnessing a grand spectacle of democracy in action in America.
For weeks now, members of Congress, cabinet officers, and even President Obama have been holding packed town-hall meetings on proposed healthcare reforms. Citizens have turned out in the thousands to listen and ask tough questions. Groups outside, both supportive and critical, wave placards and argue with one another.
Some critics tut-tut about all this, finding it unseemly. Indeed, there have been a few raucous and impolite moments. However, what we have been witnessing is a grand spectacle of democracy in action.
When the American president vows to make critical decisions of national consequence he cannot do so by fiat. He must garner support from a Congress of different political parties, and differing views within those parties. Legislators in turn must listen to hometown voters, millions of people of differing economic status; different ethnic and racial backgrounds, religions, and political persuasions. If the president and legislators are not sensitive to these views, the voters throw them out at the next election.
All this goes on under the eagle-eyed scrutiny of a free press. Panelists on TV political talk shows criticize whomever they will. The military remains in its barracks, with not a whiff of a coup or a march upon the White House.