Op-Ed

Barr held a town hall but refused to listen

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr spoke Monday during his town hall last month at Lafayette High School in Lexington.
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr spoke Monday during his town hall last month at Lafayette High School in Lexington.

The 6th Congressional District desperately needs someone to run against U.S. Rep. Andy Barr in 2018.

The principal role of an elected official is to listen to the needs of his or her constituents and vote accordingly. In his recent town hall meeting in Lexington, Barr refused to listen. Instead, he danced around direct questions with complaints about the previous administration and long anecdotes on why he intended to vote against the interests of so many of his constituents.

For example, after Barr’s presentation on the American Health Care Act, a doctor stood up to speak during the question-and-answer period. She spoke about the rise in insurance premiums before the Affordable Care Act was passed and presented statistics on the benefits of the ACA for many of her patients.

When the doctor challenged Barr’s continued support of the GOP health-care plan in light of these statistics, Barr declared his disdain for the Obama administration and repeated talking points from his presentation.

When people stood up to declare that they wouldn’t be present at the town hall meeting without the care they received under the ACA, Barr made more complaints about the previous administration and re-outlined the AHCA.

Barr had an agenda for this town hall. It did not matter that the number of uninsured Kentuckians decreased since the implementation of the ACA. The more time Barr took to repeat elements of AHCA and complain about the Obama administration, the less time the long line of people had to demand answers. Barr had the loudest microphone and the last word and he used both to deflect from larger issues.

It was a terrible performance. I kept waiting for the famous Sandman from the Apollo Theater to come out with his big hook and take the congressman away for insulting the audience with his lack of a sense of responsibility.

Attendees yelled, booed and held up signs to disagree with Barr’s constant stream of misinformation on the ACA. Frustrated by the chants of “Shame on you!” Barr retorted that he didn’t have to hold town-hall meetings and admonished the crowd for “misbehaving” in a democratic discussion.

Here he was, an elected official, declaring that he didn’t have to meet with his constituents. In doing so, he was essentially shirking the duty of the role of congressman in a democracy. By declaring that he didn’t have to host town halls, Barr implied that he was doing his constituents a favor to listen to their needs. Indeed, many people thanked him for coming, with one woman admiring his “bravery” for showing up.

Barr may have admonished the crowd, but he was the rudest person in the auditorium that day. He rudely refused to listen. He rudely refused to answer direct questions, and he refused to give the bulk of the time to his constituents to voice their needs. But more than his behavior at this particular town hall, Barr rudely refuses to advocate for his constituents with his vote.

Barr was elected to serve us. He works for us and what we say, should go. Granting Barr another term in office would empower him to continue to abruptly end town halls, skirt direct questions, and peddle a health care plan that has nothing to do with health or care. Mainly, it would empower him to keep voting against our interests.

It wasn’t the crowd that needed lessons on how to conduct themselves in a town-hall meeting and it isn’t the residents of the 6th Congressional District who need to be trained on how to conduct themselves within a democratic political system.

Barr doesn’t want an informed citizenry at these meetings and he certainly doesn’t want a vocal constituency. It is precisely the seemingly polite conversations among elected officials, who grow more and more detached from the pulse of the people, that have brought us to this point. Behind closed doors, politicians like Barr can pander to their corporate sponsors and put their party affiliations before basic human rights.

It’s time for a change in Central Kentucky. We need a representative who will put the needs of the people before partisanship. Andy Barr has proven incapable of fulfilling this duty.

Reach Jillean McCommons, a Berea librarian, at jilleanmc@gmail.com.

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