The 2016 election gave back control of both the House and Senate to the Republican Party. Not only that, there is now a “Republican” sitting in the White House. After eight years of complaining that their policies were being blocked by a Democrat-controlled Senate, plus a Democratic President, one would think that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would be sitting pretty right now.
The 215th Congress is now well into its second month in power and what have they accomplished on their promised agenda? Not one damned thing. They have confirmed Trump’s cabinet appointees, although Betsy Devos got through by the skin of her teeth requiring a tie-breaking vote cast by the Vice President. Then Mitch McConnell invoked a seldom-used rule to shut down Elizabeth Warren’s protest against Jeff Session’s appointment for Attorney General. To use a phrase that has become popular in recent months – this is not normal.
Instead of working with Congress to pass much-promised legislation, President Trump has decided to rule through executive fiat. While some of these orders were necessary if he wanted to roll back previous executive orders issued by President Obama, others were just a display of unilateral power. His executive order on immigration comes to mind. Had he submitted this as proposed legislation to Congress, it not only would have passed fairly quickly, but it would also have received the scrutiny required to withstand judicial review.
Trump and his Republican cohorts made far too many promises on what they would do on “Day One” in power. Promises that at least Ryan and McConnell knew were impossible. Repeal and replace Obamacare? Develop a plan to defeat ISIS in 30 days?
But perhaps the biggest shock to their collective system has come from the blowback they have received from their constituents. They believed they had received a “mandate” from the people. Instead, telephone lines in congressional offices were jammed by calls from people opposing most of Trump’s appointees, as well as his executive orders.
Despite increasing concerns expressed about the start of the new administration, many chose to rest on the laurels of victory instead of listening to their constituents. This is easy to do when you are inside the “Beltway bubble.” And traditionally, it hasn’t been that hard when going back to visit their home bases.
Town Hall meetings are usually sleepy little affairs that none but the most ardent supporters attend. They are “feel good” sessions where members of Congress can boast that they are “listening” to the people, and their supporters can tell them what a bang-up job they are doing. But not this year.
The first inkling of what was to come began at a February 4th town hall meeting held by Congressman Tom McClintock of California. According to the Sacramento Bee, in a capacity-filled room of 200 people, he took about a dozen (12) questions from an audience concerned about repeal of the Affordable Care Act, climate change, and Trump’s executive orders on immigration, as well as his plan to build a wall on the Mexican border. When McClintock left the meeting the situation was so bad that the police felt it necessary to escort him back to his car.
Less than a week later, Representative Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, was booed by a crowd of about 1,000 in his town hall meeting in Utah. Facing angry shouts of “Do your job” Chaffetz pleaded with the crowd to “hold on” and “give me a second.” The only positive response he received that evening was when he said KellyAnne Conway was “Wrong, wrong, wrong” for endorsing Ivanka Trump’s products on television.
Chaffetz later claimed, without offering any proof, that the protest was “a paid attempt to bully and intimidate. This led former Obama speechwriter to post the following on Twitter:
Charges of “paid protesters have led to many attendees visibility showing their ID cards to prove that they are actual constituents.
But Chaffetz was not the only one facing hostile crowds that evening. Rep. Diana Black, a Republican from Tennessee encountered an equally hostile meeting with her constituents. She also received a chorus of boos when she was escorted out after the event.
These, along with other hostile encounters, have led some Republicans to either cancel or not schedule any town hall meetings back home during the current recess. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that on 19 Republicans have scheduled town hall meetings during the recess. Others, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have had limited meetings restricted to ticket holders or have scheduled tele-town hall meetings where they can take questions without having to come face-to-face with voters.
In recent days, reports of similar hostile encounters with angry constituents are particularly troubling for members whose districts and states have been targeted as “at risk” by the Democrats.
Naturally, Donald Trump weighed in on the subject, again without offering any proof for his claim.
What Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans need is a reminder that they promised to represent ALL the people, not just Republicans, and fellow travelers. And those people include liberal activists, Democrats, and independents who are fed up with everyone. These town hall meetings are the closest we come to a pure democracy in our country. Perhaps they need to learn what “democracy” means.
Those so-called “activists” are also “voters” and the GOP can ignore, hide, or run away from them at their peril. Yes, we are angry as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.