The drama unfolding at Town Halls around the country – from Bernie Sanders’ promised one to the furious crowds yelling at “king of the hypocrites” Jason Chaffetz and several GOP fellow travelers to do their damn jobs given how they’re supposed to be working for us, remember? – offer a telling look at the turmoil that is our heartsick democracy.
The rowdy event held by usually-so-red Utah’s Chaffetz, head of the House Oversight Committee, got the most press: The spectacle of thousands of mutinous constituents loudly booing, waving signs, charging “Do Your Job!” and cheering the question as to just what is his line in the sand for a clearly inept and unethical president moved Chaffetz – who spent years investigating Hillary Clinton’s alleged crimes and 11 hours grilling her, with nothing to show for it – to run away an hour early.
Responses to the debacle were, of course, diverse. Michael Moore celebrated, “The majority has come alive,” members of Utah Indivisible vowed, “To all politicians/ Where ever u appear/ We the people will b there/ showing u what democracy looks like,” and others marveled at unexpected times when “the state of Utah, Teen Vogue, and a rogue Parks Department would be leading the resistance.”
Back in D.C., an oblivious Chaffetz dismissed the crowds as either a “very, very small minority…a very vocal, very frustrated, scorched-earth mentality that’s not representative of the average person, certainly not in Utah,” or else they were paid agitators from out-of-state.
In response, some sent him a bill for patriotic services rendered. Whatever, huffed Chaffetz: Either way, he said he plans to ignore all further angry crowds, also any calls, emails or other messy signs of participatory democracy. Utah Democrats blasted his response as “offensive” and “out of touch with reality,” charging, “It’s crap and we ought to call it out.”
Happily, many are. The weekend was marked by similar discontent across the country: 80,000 marching for Moral Resistance in Raleigh, many thousands marching in defense of Planned Parenthood (including hundreds here in Portland in a 10 degree snowstorm) and in support of refugees in Minneapolis, and similarly angry crowds focused on Town Halls in Tennessee, Alabama and Ohio – sometimes because running-scared pols declined to tell constituents they were having them.
In Florida, a crowd almost as clamorous as Utah’s shouted down a local GOP-er’s absurd claim about death panels and his seriously insulting nod to them as “children.” WTF? “I don’t understand,” said one wry crowd member. “How did these paid protesters get to Florida so fast from Utah?”
And in Montana, the jerk who told Elizabeth Warren to sit down and shut up was greeted at home by protesters demanding a Town Hall because, you know, democracy. He ran away too.
Meanwhile, polls find Americans evenly divided, just weeks into his inglorious reign, on the subject of impeaching Trump; phone lines for the House Oversight Committee, reflecting “the massive number of calls we have been getting,” now give callers a separate option just to complain about his ethical missteps; in a reflection of consumer power two more huge stores, Sears and KMart, have dropped Trump products, part of a #GrabYourWallet boycott list aimed at cutting sales at all Trump-related businesses which has been viewed over 600 million times.;
and Bernie Sanders is still out there. After his town hall in beleaguered Charleston was abruptly and sketchily cancelled by officials, he vowed, “That town meeting will be held. Poverty in America will be discussed. Solutions will be found.” Despite the cancellation, he urged a crowd there to run for office, reminded them good government “is about bringing people together,” and called for persistence. “The truth is, bad things happen when good people do not stand up and fight,” he said. “That’s what we’ve got to do.”