Videos of angry crowds at Republican town hall meetings have been heavily circulated and reports of conservative Congress members avoiding public sessions are rampant in news reports. Earlier this week, Sen. Tom Cotton’s town hall was the center of attention as he faced chants, boos, and pointed questions from constituents on a number of topics. Donald Trump weighed in, blaming “liberal activists” for the unrest at the meetings.
The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2017
But as frustration with the legislative branch grows, Republicans aren’t the only ones feeling the heat. The Young Turks political reporter Michael Tracey covered a town hall meeting on Wednesday in California that, while civil, offered fierce criticisms for two lawmakers. Representatives Scott Peters and Susan Davis faced intense questions over the shortcomings of the Democratic Party. One constituent said that her neighbors weren’t clear on the direction of the party. She continued, they “couldn’t tell me what the Democrats stood for. So I’m here to ask you in front of God and everybody what the heck does a Democrat stand for?” Rep. Peters offered an answer wrought with harmonious imagery, but offered no specifics. Other attendees called the party’s recent efforts a colossal failure and demanded that their elected officials do more to understand their supporters, while they were met with non-comital answers as the two Representatives danced around serious issues. You can see Michael’s video here.
Earlier this month, Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver held a forum on Trump’s Muslim immigration ban. But, the crowd grew restless when Rep. Cleaver didn’t offer direct answers to their concerns. In addition to protesters attempting to take the stage, several other community members had to be escorted out by police. Some of those kicked out of the forum represented the KS/MO DREAM Alliance, an organization that, according to their Facebook page, helps immigrant youth “reach their higher education goals.” The group was removed after they continued to speak after being denied the opportunity to present their concerns to the Congressman. “Emmanuel Cleaver’s staff had us kicked out because we tried to speak up about what leadership we really need from him,” they stated on their Facebook page.
While the media and voters grilled Republicans, like Florida’s Marco Rubio and Califorinia’s Scott Knight, this week for avoiding town halls, many Democrats also faced pressure as they shied away from meeting the people they represent face-to-face. Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill was a no show at a town hall, instead opting to talk with constituents via Facebook Live, which is more easily controlled. Friday, protesters gathered outside the office of West Virginia’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. Sen. Manchin is under fire for supporting President Trump’s EPA pick, Scott Pruitt. Citing a busy schedule, he has not met with his constituents this week.
Other Democrats sought to control the atmosphere at any public appearances they made. North Dakota’s Senator Heidi Heitkamp, also heavily criticized for supporting Pruitt, held a met with the public, but restricted the conversation to flooding concerns in her state. Montana Senator Jon Tester limited his appearances to talking only about environmental issues.
Elected officials on both sides of the aisle are avoiding the very people they serve. All the while, they continue to ignore the needs of the public, instead bowing to special interest groups. An estimated $3.12 Billion was spent last year on lobbying efforts to influence our lawmakers. The interests of big pharma, insurance companies, and the oil and gas industries make sure that the concerns of the citizens are brushed aside in favor of policies that directly benefit them.
On Wednesday, Representative Dan Newhouse of Washington gave us the most glaring example of public office holders’ continued disrespect toward citizens. As protesters gathered at his Yakima office, upset that he had no scheduled town hall meetings, Rep. Newhouse showed up in Mark Johnson’s Twitter feed, along with several other Washington lawmakers. Who is this Mark Johnson, you ask? Mr. Johnson is a lobbyist for the Washington Retail Association, which represents giant chains like Walmart, Target, Lowes, and Best Buy.
With Congressman Dan Newhouse at the Capitol. pic.twitter.com/OYeAbFTPyR
— Mark Johnson (@MarkJohnsonWRA) February 22, 2017