Only about two weeks have passed since Rep. Tom McClintock scurried out of a town hall with angry constituents under a police escort. It wasn’t the Republican congressman’s finest hour, but give him credit: Back in his district for the Presidents Day week recess, he has scheduled public forums Tuesday and Wednesday evenings in Mariposa and Sonora. That’s more than can be said for most of his Republican colleagues.
Spooked by protests demanding that Congress check President Donald Trump’s controversial actions, members of the Republican majority have been ducking and dodging rather than scheduling face time at open houses. The congressional news site Roll Call reported that, as of late last week, none of the 10 House members expected by the National Republican Congressional Committee to face tough re-election races had scheduled town halls in their districts.
Among them were California Reps. David Valadao, Steve Knight and Darrell Issa. But, really, good luck finding most congressional California Republicans.
Unions and health advocates hoping to preserve the Affordable Care Act have been challenging Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, in vain to meet publicly with constituents on that emotional issue, which impacts 100,000 or more people in his Stanislaus County district. Efforts by a group of middle-aged liberals to meet last week with U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa, ended in a scrum at his district office door in which a toddler with the protesters and Rohrabacher’s 71-year-old district director were conked on the head.
Issa’s constituents have been trying for weeks to get him to hold an in-person town hall, calling, writing and protesting weekly outside his San Diego County office. Some took out a full-page ad in the local newspaper. Issa, who was nearly unseated by the turnout for Hillary Clinton in the November election, hasn’t bitten.
Some congressmen complain that that the demonstrations are mere political theater choreographed by progressives. And it is true that some grass-roots voters have taken a page from the playbook of tea party Republicans who dogged congressional Democrats after the election of Barack Obama; the group at Rohrabacher’s office, for instance, was one of many organized around “Indivisible,” the viral activism guide.
But so what? Voters are voters. The people outside McClintock’s Feb. 4 town hall didn’t fall from the sky; they were retirees and PTA moms and other people who understandably wanted answers. Members of Congress, regardless of party: Face your public. At least McClintock is doing his job.