Senator Marco Rubio won’t be doing any town halls, anytime soon.
I don’t blame him, actually. Have you seen what town halls have turned into?
They’re absolutely pointless. Professional agitators have taken up the task to occupy Republican town halls and prevent any meaningful dialogue.
“They are not town halls anymore,” the Florida Republican told CBS4-Miami’s Jim DeFede on Sunday. “What these groups really want is for me to schedule a public forum, they then organize three, four, five, six hundred liberal activists in the two counties or wherever I am in the state.”
And then nobody hears anything, other than their incessant rudeness.
Citing protesting tips published by the new Indivisible movement, Rubio told the station that activists are instructed to go to town halls early and “take up all the front seats. They spread themselves out. They ask questions. They all cheer when the questions are asked. They are instructed to boo no matter what answer I give. They are instructed to interrupt me if I go too long and start chanting things. Then, at the end, they are also told not to give up their microphone when they ask questions. It’s all in writing in this Indivisible document.”
So these protests are highly organized, and somebody is behind it. They may deny there is pay involved, but somehow, I suspect they’re also paid to, well, lie.
Rubio isn’t the only lawmaker who has been unnerved by the protests.
Congressman Louie Gohmert, of Texas, has cited the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords as an example of why not to wade into a situation where the tension is so high.
“I was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning my offices were open to the public,” Giffords said on Twitter. “To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls.”
If she was shot on Saturday and her offices were open Monday morning without her, that means nothing. If she’s saying she was shot on Saturday and back to work by Monday, then obviously, she wasn’t hurt very badly, so all those long months of obnoxious gun control infomercials, featuring her as the star were just a gimmick, weren’t they?
That’s another discussion, all together. Maybe somebody should call her on it.
These town halls are a courtesy, not a requirement of the job, so if these lawmakers know they won’t be heard, or if they are so raucous that they can’t have an honest back-and-forth, what’s the point?
Asked whether he thinks today’s town hall crowds do not consist of “real people,” Rubio was quick to dispel the notion.
“These are real people. They are real liberal activists, and I respect their right to do it. But it is not a productive exercise,” Rubio replied in the interview. “It’s all designed to have news coverage at night — look at all these angry people screaming at your senator.”
Rubio said he believes that “80 to 90 percent” of the people at the town halls were organized by activists.
“I have no problem justifying my views on these issues. The problem is they are not designed to have a productive engagement,” Rubio told the station. “They are designed to heckle and scream at me in front of cameras so that Channel 4 and other networks and other stations at night will report.”
And he’s right.
I hesitate to say it, because these things can get out of hand so quickly, but those citizens who appreciate honest, civil interaction with their representatives, and who truly have a longing for answers need to become just as organized and insistent as those who are protesting and disrupting.
There needs to be a counter-movement that protects the integrity of these town hall meetings, not to shut down dissent, but to bring things back to where there can be actual conversation, again.