Nel's New Day

August 24, 2011

Representatives Hide from Contituents

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:32 PM

“We need jobs! Jobs, jobs jobs!”

Across the country, things are heating up, and it’s not just the temperature—especially with Congressional representatives and senators being on recess. Two years ago, Democrats feared violence when they tried to discuss the proposed health care plan with the Tea Party fanatics. This year, physical hostility is lacking, but conservatives are running scared, mostly refusing to meet directly with any constituent who might disagree with their conservative position. Because the mainstream media is avoiding the topic, most people won’t realize how widespread the anger toward elected politicians is.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) stuck it out even when Kelly Townsend, a Gilbert resident and member of the Greater Phoenix Tea Party, demanded that McCain apologize for a comment made last month on the Senate floor about “tea party hobbits.” At least she got to interact with him for free.

After Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) became annoyed with protesters, he charged $15 for the privilege of asking him questions, a new pattern for the traditional “town hall” meetings. Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) started the trend when he set an admission price of $10 for his town hall. (He probably doesn’t care what people think because he’s moving from Minnesota to New Hampshire. No attempt at re-election for him.) Ryan upped Cravaack’s ante for his event when it didn’t seem to filter enough protesters. Then Lou Barletta (R-PA) held a $30-per- while Dan Quayle’s son, Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ), charged $35 a head for a catered question and answer session. The cost for Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), however, was a modest $13.

This approach seems odd for representatives so wedded to the Constitution. The part of the First Amendment that gives Americans the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances” does not include “only if they are willing and able to pay for that privilege.” Those charging for events think they have circumvented the Constitution by “outsourcing,” hiring a third-party to handle the event admissions.

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) kept to the traditional approach, and his town hall meeting was riddled with protests as voters voiced their frustration with the GOP’s focus on deep spending cuts rather than providing jobs. Before the event began, dozens of protesters gathered outside the auditorium with shirts that read “Tax Wall Street. End the Wars. Public Investment in Jobs.” Fearing pushback on issues like ending Medicare and corporate tax dodging, Chabot banned constituents from filming the town hall.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) went further with his sign outside his district office: “Private Property: No soliciting, No protesting, No loitering.” Protests there came after he referred to President Obama as a “tar baby.” Lamborn’s supporters were allowed to “loiter” when they held a “spontaneous” rally outside the office.

This protesting didn’t just start in August. Four months ago, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) faced a barrage of questions from outraged constituents about his support for ending Medicare, his desire to see tax breaks for the wealthy extended, and his vote to repeal health care reform, including its protections for people with preexisting conditions. Several times Webster simply declined to give an answer to contentious questions altogether, moving on to take a new question instead.

Claiming that the protesters were former members of ACORN and MoveOn, Webster put six of them on a “watch list,” complete with names and multiple photographs, that he distributed among other Congressional representatives. One of the complaints listed was that they “Worked for Barak [sic] Obama.” (They didn’t, but I didn’t know that was sufficient to put someone on a watch list.)

“I think it’s pretty weird. Someone asks a legitimate question, and all of the sudden somebody’s got a dossier on you,” said Orlando resident Ron Parsell. “It’s the type of thing they’d do in old Russia.” Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR) handed out the list at his town hall meeting but claimed that “I didn’t know they were real people.” The watch lists were also distributed in Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Other backlash among voters to the Republican budget has played out for other congressmen across the country, including Reps. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Charlie Bass (R-NH), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Robert Dold (R-IL), and Sean Duffy (R-WI).

Bill Meyers, 77, challenged Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) about his support of an “unreal” balanced budget amendment and his support of a pledge, authored by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, not to raise taxes. “Which takes precedence? Your constituents or Grover Norquist?” Constituents also grilled Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), a member of the House Tea Party Caucus, about her opposition to raising taxes on the rich, at times hooting at her answers.

The finest hour, however, was when Rep. Allen West (R-FL) had a constituent arrested at a town hall event. She said she was singled out for political reasons, taken into custody under false pretenses, and maced in jail. And she has video to prove some, if not all, of it.

Nicole Sandler, a progressive radio show host, shouted out a follow-up question after West avoided a question about phasing out Medicare: “I wanted to ask: How does privatizing Medicare make it more efficient? How does adding a profit motive to it make it more efficient? And I want to know the name and telephone number of an insurance company who will sell a policy to… someone who’s 75 years old, obese, with high blood pressure.” (West has said that he will not run for re-election.)

One survey indicated that 60 percent of the Congress are not holding town hall meetings this year. Congress’ approval rating—currently 13 percent, according to Gallup—is at an  historic low, and its disapproval rating, at 84 percent, is at an historic high. Many Americans, especially the poor and the unemployed, eagerly awaited Congress’ August recess so they could use town hall meetings and other public appearances to give their elected officials a piece of their mind. When these were not available, they protested outside the local offices.

If the conservatives believe that they are doing the right thing, and that the “people” agree with them, why won’t they meet with them?

1 Comment »

  1. I so appreciate the way you gather these stories up into a big bouquet of protest.


    Comment by Lee Lynch — August 24, 2011 @ 11:53 PM | Reply

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