On Wednesday evening, as he has in earlier gatherings, U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry began a Lincolnton town hall event with a sound effect — a 1,000-plus-page copy of the House of Representatives' health care bill, which the congressman dropped to the floor.
The thwap was loud enough to snap heads to attention, an unnecessary gimmick at the Lincolnton Citizens Center auditorium, where 450 people already were rapt and ready to criticize that stack of pages on the floor.
Like town halls across the U.S., McHenry's N.C. District 10 events have attracted hundreds of angry opponents of health care reform to overflowing venues this month. While some Democrats have dismissed those nationwide protests as organized by special-interest groups, Republicans are pointing to rural events like McHenry's as evidence of a grass-roots stirring, of dissatisfaction with the Obama administration and, perhaps, of Republicans being reminded why they're Republicans.
“I think what's happening is that this health care reform has woken us up,” said Patsy Davis of Iron Station, who attended Wednesday's event.
McHenry, before the Lincolnton gathering, was reluctant to say whether the crowds signaled the beginnings of a conservative renewal. “I don't know if there is a larger political context here,” he said. But, he noted: “They're very angry about the direction Washington is taking.”
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