During the Constitutional Convention of 1787 there was debate over the final form of the legislature. Anyone with an iota of knowledge of those debates knows that they decided on a bicameral legislature with the big states (at that time)- Pennsylvania, Virginia and Massachusetts- getting their way with representation based on population and the small states getting their way with equal representation in the Senate.
It was also decided that since the lower chamber was to be “the people’s legislature,” largely akin to the British Parliament’s House of Commons, terms would be set at two years and Senate terms at six years. This was designed to make the Senate a more deliberative body and shield Senators from the momentary whims of the populace. It is why they try cases of impeachment, ratify treaties and exercise the legislature’s advise and consent function on Executive Branch appointments as well as those to the federal judiciary as well as the Supreme Court- the real important stuff.
What our Founders were doing was, in effect, keeping House members in a continuous state of “campaigning” by keeping them close to the “people.” It is why House members were directly elected by the people and Senators were not.
This week, Congress is in recess given the President’s Day holiday. During these breaks, in an effort to “stay close to the people,” Congressmen and women and Senators return to their home states and districts and often use this opportunity to hold town hall meetings where they discuss with constituents concerns, suggestions and problems. Unfortunately, the Left is usurping that avenue of discussion by using these events to protest anything (1) Trump, (2) conservative, or (3) Republican-backed.
Our own Jim Jamitis outlined some of the “spontaneous protests” breaking out at these town hall meetings in a previous article about Michael Moore who has devised a “resistance calendar” that lists upcoming meetings and other protests scheduled around the country. Besides appearing at the site of your Representative’s town hall meeting, there are rallies, protests, and marches listed. My personal favorite is the scheduled DC “March for Science” which, one supposes, the pink pussy hats will be retired in favor of white lab coats.
The news media has jumped on the stories with the meeting scheduled by Joni Ernst of Iowa being probably the most covered. Scheduled to address veteran affairs issues, the blockhead Left in Iowa showed up to rant about everything BUT veteran affairs leading Ernst to cancel the meeting. Not that there were any problems at the VA like former service members dying while on a waiting list or anything, but the biggest losers in their antics was not Joni Ernst but the thousands of veterans who have serious concerns they need addressed.
So as to appear grassroots, the organizers of these fake protests (a group called “Indivisible”) make several suggestions. Among them are to show up and spread out throughout the venue so as to make it look as if there are more members of the opposition than are actually there. Also, they are not to give up the microphone until they get the answer they want which is usually a concession to something on the Leftist agenda. They are to avoid using professional signs and use handwritten ones. That makes it look more spontaneous and more “grassrootsy.”
And there lies one of the problems with these efforts. Using the Ernst meeting as an example- one to discuss veteran’s affairs- people showed up with signs advancing the environmentalist (climate change) agenda, in support of Obamacare, in support of LGBT rights, in support of public education funding, in support of civil rights (and against Jeff Sessions), ad nauseum.
Even if a Senator or Representative is not scheduled to have a public meeting or town hall, this does not stop Indivisible. Go to their website and one can see that they are particularly pissed at Washington Congressman Dave Reichert for not scheduling anything. They suggest concerted calls to a Congressman’s office and even have scripted responses to the poor person taking the phone call. They have shown up at the homes of our elected people and protested with chants and signs.
In short, the goal is to badger, deflect, distract and harass elected officials if they happen to be Republican. This is anything but spontaneous or “grassroots,” but a well-coordinated effort nationally to disrupt communication between elected officials and constituents. Robert Reich suggested these actions in his weekly column for Alternet months ago. This is what Tim Kaine meant by opposing the Trump agenda “in the streets.”
The problems are fourfold. First, the more this continues, the more elected officials will avoid the mayhem and simply cease holding town hall meetings or face-to-face ones with constituents. They will communicate via robocalls or mailings and returned form letters. This is exactly what our Founders did NOT want to happen. Second, the constant shouting, screaming and harassment will wear thin after awhile. Just as protests in the streets become old news, so shall these manufactured fits of rage at town hall meetings.
Third, there may be legitimate gripes among some constituents, but the legitimacy fades away amid the optics of people shouting down elected officials, refusing to give up microphones, following people to their cars shouting or standing outside private residences protesting. They are not protesting anything in particular; they are protesting anything and everything. They become protesters for the sake of protesting.
And fourth and finally, the obvious purpose is to have a possible effect on the 2018 midterm elections. Therefore, where these things occur are important. There are a very few handful of swing districts in the country, but the effort is directed at every Republican official regardless of their vulnerability in 2018. Does anyone honestly believe that a GOP representative who regularly pulls in 70% of the vote in their district is going to be voted out of office because some people showed up and shouted at them at a town hall meeting? Regarding the Senate, Joni Ernst, for example, is not even up for reelection in 2018 and it is Democratic incumbent Senators who have to defend more seats and are more vulnerable to defeat in 2018.
One understands their Constitutional right to protest and “petition the government for a redress of grievances,” but this is simply manufactured rage for the sake of it and because “they can.” Part of me says let them continue to make fools of themselves and another part says that hopefully some elected official will publicly call them out for their rudeness, ignorance and stupidity. Harassment is not a “redress of grievances.” Protesting for the sake of protesting and 15 minutes of fame before a television camera is just stupid.