Think back to 2009. The nation was talking about health care, and the heat was clearly turned up on President Obama and Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Town halls held by Democrats during the summer recess were raucous. Some constituents were rude and loud, shouting down representatives with predictions of “death panels” and an “aspirin tax.” Video clips from these messy meetings became a nightly staple of cable news.
Now the shoe is on the other foot.
Democratic voters want to express outrage at Republicans over their failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Others want to vent about President Trump’s policies. Once again, town hall meetings have turned ugly. Resistance activists have supplanted tea party patriots.
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Some of our Valley congressional representatives have exhibited the courage to meet the masses and field their questions anyway. Others are ducking and hiding. Rep. David Valadao has engineered a third route: He met with constituents one-on-one last month in Hanford in what was dubbed a “Hometown Huddle.”
To his credit, Rep. Tom McClintock has held six town halls in his sprawling district since December, including one in Mariposa on Feb. 21. The Los Angeles Times reported that about 900 people showed up to the fairground auditorium – two-thirds of them to grill McClintock, the remainder to give him a pat on the back.
“This evening is yours,” McClintock said, “so have at it.”
They did for two hours. We imagine he won new-found respect. If not for his conservative policies then for understanding that one of his duties is to talk face-to-face with the people he represents in Washington, D.C.
It was Rep. Jeff Denham’s turn in the sizzling skillet Monday night. According to The Modesto Bee, more than 1,000 people traveled from Modesto, Tracy, Manteca and points between to hear – or confront – their congressman. A few were there to get answers or show support. But most were there to express anger and frustration.
They were upset about the Trump administration’s attack on the Affordable Care Act, its attack on efforts to fight climate change, Trump’s wall and his immigration policies. Predictably, those who brought these issues with them didn’t like Denham’s answers to their questions.
Wednesday in Visalia, from 6 o’clock to 8 o’clock at the College of the Sequoias, critics of Rep. Devin Nunes will hold a town hall without him. Scheduled topics include health care, immigration reform and government transparency.
The Bee’s Lewis Griswold reported April 12 that Nunes was invited, but his staff told a town hall organizer that he had a scheduling conflict. He won’t send a staff member in his place, the organizer said.
Those holding the town hall clearly are intent on embarrassing Nunes and portraying him as someone who either does not want to take the time to meet with voters or someone who does not want to face the heat.
Nunes is the only one who can render such portrayals false. The sooner the better. The longer he waits to schedule a town hall in the Valley, the more pent-up frustration he will face.