Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Potted Plants

The recent kerfuffle about a planted question at one of Hillary Clinton’s rallies in Iowa raised the point that she’s not the first to have shills in the audience — think of President Bush’s “town hall meetings” where everyone within five square miles of the event is screened to be sure they’re pro-Bush — and all sorts of groups show up at these meetings with their own agenda; from health care to global warming to medical marijuana.

If you attend enough campaign events, patterns begin to emerge. Representatives of the Priorities Campaign, a group founded by Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s fame, routinely ask about lowering military spending. Representatives of the New Voter’s Project, an offshoot of the Public Interest Research Group, will ask about issues important to young people. The people from NORML, the pot legalization crowd, show up to ask about medical marijuana. Though the practice is not new this cycle, it appears to be more prevalent. “My sense is that more groups are trying to use New Hampshire as a megaphone for their own issues,” says Dante Scala, one of the preeminent political scientists in the state.

Dude… hate to harsh your buzz, but doesn’t that kinda y’know defeat the whole purpose of like having the town meeting in the first place?

The Clinton campaign has since stated that “this is not standard policy and will not be repeated again,” which can be interpreted to mean that at minimum the Clinton campaign will try to do a better job of not getting caught. But the “town hall” meeting will remain crowded with preplanned, prefabricated voices, presenting plenty of competition for pharmacist Jill and farmhand Joe, and potentially undermining this historic democratic institution.

For real.