One of the big stories that followed the election of Barack Obama was the outrage of the newly formed Tea Party and the appearance of angry citizens at town hall meetings held by Democratic (and some Republican) members of Congress. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and it's GOP congressmen and women who are the targets of voter anger. Some of them are not taking it well.
Dana Rohrabacher is a Republican who represents California's 48th Congressional District, which stretches along the southern California coastline from Seal Beach to Dana Point. Rohrabacher won re-election to his seat in the November election despite the fact that his district voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Now his constituents want to talk to him at a town hall, and he is refusing to meet with them.
On Valentine's Day, a group of constituents went to Rohrabacher's district office to delivery Valentines to him, asking that he please meet with them and other residents of his district. Think Progress says the group, representing "Indivisible Orange County" has been coming to the office every Tuesday to request a town hall meeting. This past Tuesday, however, things got a little ugly.
According to a statement issued by Indivisible Orange County, a 2-year-old girl named Lola was hit in the head as she attempted to slide a Valentine under the locked door of Rohrabacher's office, when a staffer opened the door into her from the other side.
The staffer, Kathleen Staunton, also took a tumble in the incident when protesters grabbed the door to make sure it didn't hit the child again. That left Rohrabacher angry, accusing the protesters of "political thuggery."
"Deliberate or not, the incident came as part of a mob action that not only intimidates but coerces. Though the protesters think of themselves as idealists, they engaged in political thuggery, pure and simple," Rohrabacher said.
"These people do not want, as they’ve claimed, to hold a town hall meeting with me. These are unruly activists on whom the lessons of civility and democratic participation have been lost. These holier-than-thou obstructionists will be held responsible for this outrageous assault. They are exposing themselves for what they are — enemies of American self-government and democracy."
The members of Indivisible OC had a different take.
We are hardworking, taxpaying Americans who want to engage in our democracy and to simply be heard by our Congressional representative. It is a shame that Rep. Rohrabacher has refused repeated requests to hold a town hall meeting for his district and holds a particular contempt for engaged citizens by characterizing civic duty as “political thuggery.” For all we know, the only political thuggery we see is his Twitter behavior.
Rohrabacher is one of a number of Republicans who appear to be retreating to their "safe spaces" as constituents demand answers from them about subjects such as the repeal of Obamacare. But his response to a legitimate request from citizens for a public meeting is beyond the pale.
Many members of Congress now seem to think that their constituency begins and ends with the lobbyists who regularly drop by to hand them a check, and their well-heeled campaign donors. While some of them represent safely gerrymandered districts and can treat voters who hold views in opposition to theirs with disdain, Dana Rohrabacher isn't one of them. Yes, he just won re-election by a comfortable margin. But those same voters also gave Hillary Clinton a larger victory margin in the district than Barack Obama received in 2008.
Rohrabacher and a number of his colleagues would be wise to rethink how they approach their constituents. If Trump winds up disappointing his base, causing them to stay home for the next election, and at the same time energizes the opposition, it is possible that Democrats could retake the House in 2018. It will be a heavy lift, without question. But as we watch the swiftly moving train wreck of the Trump administration unfold, a Democratic House majority in two years is a definite possibility. And that possibility seems to increase every time an out of touch Republican like Dana Rohrabacher opens his or her mouth.