Last Friday, the Republicans finally gave up on “repealing and replacing” Obamacare. Their surrender shows the power and effectiveness of public protest.
If you doubt that, you should have been in attendance at the previous week’s angry meeting between U.S. Rep. Andy Barr and his constituents in Richmond. It no doubt scared the hell out of the congressman, as have similar encounters with similar congressional delegates across the country.
In the past, “Coffee with the Congressman” has featured more staffers in attendance than citizens. However, since the Trump election, that hasn’t been the case. About 300 people confronted Barr at his recent meeting at Eastern Kentucky University.
It was raucous from the get-go as our 6th District representative tried unsuccessfully to offer a tedious presentation on Trumpcare. His power point proved full of double-talk, jargon and blah-blah. His remark that the Affordable Care Act is wildly unpopular drew boos and cries of dissent.
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In fact, the crowd’s constant jeers showed it was clearly anxious to have its own voice heard. The representative and others from the audience had to repeatedly remind interrupters that they were only prolonging Barr’s painful monologue, and needed to allow him to finish. Mercifully, he did after about 20 minutes. As one woman later scolded, “You have to learn to do less talking and more listening.”
The questions that followed ranged far beyond Trumpcare. A good number focused on President Donald Trump himself:
“What is it like to work for a bat-poop (sic) crazy idiot like Donald Trump?” one woman asked.
“Lyin’ DJT has you Republicans looking like fools,” another commenter added.
“As a respecter of the Constitution, what are you going to do about Trump’s obvious breaches of the emolument clause?” (Art. 1, section 9, clause 8)
Other questions showed that their posers had done extensive homework. They addressed health care, climate change, discrimination against Muslims, provisions for persons with disabilities, taxes, the defense budget and defunding of the arts and public radio. Nearly all of the questions were highly charged with emotion.
Responses from the congressman were what you’d expect:
Trumpcare offers you choice and saves money.
There are many opinions about the extent of human causes of climate change, so we don’t want to act in haste. (This response prompted the questioner to reply, “Sir, your stunning ignorance on this question represents a failure in your solemn responsibility as our representative to be better informed.”)
During his speech to Congress (9/24/15) even Pope Francis didn’t call for more government laws. (Clearly, Barr was unfamiliar with the pope’s eco-encyclical. There Pope Francis calls on national governments to submit to an international body to deal with climate chaos.
Radical Islamic terrorism is the No. 1 threat facing our country. (Evoking laughter, boos and general dissension from the audience)
The budget deficit means we have to cut back on public spending. (Provoking a person beside me to yell out, “How about taxing the rich?”)
Recently, on “Democracy Now,” Ralph Nader reminded viewers of the importance of attending meetings like the one in Richmond. It’s the one place, Nader said, where citizens can exercise direct power over government officials scared-to-death of losing their jobs in 2018. Now across the country, the order of the day features standing room only audiences as loaded for bear as the Richmond crowd I’ve described.
It’s up to us to keep the pressure on. Let’s make future meetings even more uncomfortable for all of our government employees from the Beltway.
Reach Mike Rivage-Seul, a retired Berea College professor, at Mike_Rivage-Seul @berea.edu.