A group of about 40 protesters quietly and abruptly walked out of Republican Congressman Tom McClintock’s town hall in the city of Angels Camp Wednesday night.
“We’re going to take our district back,” said Kate Hege, 38, of nearby Amador City. “We have been to a half dozen town halls, we have made thousands of calls, we have talked with his staffers...to be heard. The only response that he has is to slander us as the radical left. We are his constituents, and he owes us representation...yet he doesn’t do anything for this district. This is about switching gears.”
As protesters left the high school gymnasium at the Bret Harte High School, McClintock repeated a phrase he often uses during protests at town halls. It was his ninth since President Donald Trump took office.
“Our process of government is the best one that’s ever been designed to resolve the kind of political differences that we’re having today as a nation, as long as we are talking with each other and not shouting at each other or disrupting proceedings,” McClintock said. “I’ve held these town halls pretty much once a month since I was first elected. I do that so people can share different ideas respectfully...then hopefully all of us go away with something to think about, including me.
“You can’t do that if people are seeking to disrupt proceedings like this,” he said.
Many outside the meeting said they don’t feel heard by McClintock, a conservative Republican who has represented California’s deep-red, largely rural 4th Congressional District since 2009.
“He says we need to talk to him. Well, I could talk from now until 2028 and nothing I could say would influence him,” said Elaine Hagen of Tuolumne, who is backing a Democrat challenging McClintock next year, when he is up for re-election.
McClintock told the crowd of roughly 300 people who remained that he backs the latest Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. He said he supports granting permanent residency to recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program but otherwise favors a tough crackdown on immigration, including stripping federal law enforcement grants from jurisdictions that declare themselves “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants.
As one of the president’s most vocal supporters in Congress, McClintock passionately defended Trump’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly this week, when he said that the U.S. could “totally destroy” North Korea if the United States is “forced to defend itself or its allies.”
McClintock said the speech served as a “very important warning” to Kim Jong-un and felt it was “the best presidential speech ever given at the United Nations.”
The health care debate in Washington was front-and-center, with dozens of people in the crowd carrying signs that read “Don’t take away our health care – ever,” “Stop the sabotage of Obamacare” and “No on Graham-Cassidy,” referring to the Republican Obamacare repeal proposal.
“I want the congressman to vote ‘no’ because this bill is just as bad as all the other bills they’ve tried,” said Myrna Doering, 77, of Jamestown. She said she fears that if it passes, “all of us are going to lose our health care.”
McClintock fiercely defended Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, saying “Congress needs to step up and fulfill the promises that we made.” He said he “likes what he sees so far” on the proposal from Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.
His comments drew loud boos, though some in the crowd later stood up and said they support Obamacare repeal.
“Repeal it completely, don’t replace it,” said Larry Crabtree, 59, of Mi Wuk Village. “Get the government out of health care.”
Outside the town hall, the crowd who walked out held a meeting to discuss how to get rid of McClintock. Most wore stickers emblazoned with their zip codes, a message directed at McClintock and others who have suggested that activist groups have been busing protesters in to Republican town halls.
Jessica Morse, a Democrat running against McClintock who previously worked at the Department of Defense, the State Department and in Iraq for the United States Agency for International Development, listened to the crowd inside and out. She said she’s running because she feels the district has been under-represented in Congress for years.
“There are real issues in our community that are getting ignored, and they’re getting ignored because have a congressional representative right now who is more dedicated to his political philosophy and representing his party than he is to representing our community,” said Morse, 35, who lives in Pollock Pines.
“We’re not getting access to broadband, we’re not investing in fire prevention, we’re not managing our water so all of our wells are going dry,” she added. “There are real issues in our community that need to be addressed, and we need a representative who will do that.”