Why Diane Black Has Far More To Fear From Her Constituents In Tennessee Than Justin Amash Does From Michigan Voters
Justin Amash isn't hiding from his constituents and he's not hiding the media coverage of his raucous downhill meetings. He welcomes them and wants Michiganders to know about them. Amash's Grand Rapids-based seat is in a swing district (PVI is R+4); most of the voters coming from Kent (Grand Rapids) and Calhoun (Battle Creek) counties. Obama won it 50-49% in 2008, lost it 53-46% in 2012 and Hillary lost to Trump 51.6% to 42.2%. 3 months ago, Amash did considerably better than Trump-- winning reelection with 203,069 votes (59.6%) to 128,159 (37.5%). He won all 5 counties in the district.
According to the ProgressivePunch crucial votes scores, he's the most likely Republican in the House to support progressive legislation and, in fact, his score so far this year is 40.0, more progressive than would-be Democratic Leader Tim Ryan (D-OH), New Dem leader Jim Himes (CT), Blue Dog leader Kurt Schrader (OR) and over two dozen other Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, who apparently see the Trump-Ryan agenda as more attractive and supportable than Amash does. Amash's 2017 score is 40.0 while reactionary Blue Dogs like Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Collin Peterson (MN), Henry Cuellar (TX), Jim Costa (CA), Dan Lipinski (IL), Jim Cooper (TN), and Tom O'Halleran (AZ) all have scores of... ZERO. You can see why Ryan and McCarthy prefer Democrats like Sinema and Cuellar way more than independent-minded Republicans like Amash and Walter Jones (NC).
This week, while Ryan's lockstep Republicans were being torn apart by their own constituents in town halls, even in deeply red districts and in every part of the country, Amash was packing in the crowds-- and with a different result than, for example, Tom McClintock found waiting for him in Roseville, in the suburbs north of Sacramento.
More than 600 people showed up to a town hall meeting hosted by Congressman Justin Amash Thursday night. It was his second Grand Rapids town hall in less than a month and it was the second time so many people showed up they had to close the doors and turn people away.The Republican town hall that got all the attention Thursday night was Jason Chaffetz's in the Salt Lake City suburb of Cottonwood Heights, one of the more moderate parts of his district. He was roundly booed by a thousand of his constituents, who are sick of him on a whole array of issues.
Some Michigan members of Congress have been criticized lately for avoiding constituents.
But town halls are not new for Amash. The Republican says he’s always felt taking unscripted questions from his constituents, in person, is part of the job. But under the new administration, the crowds have been major.
“I like to be here hearing the different perspectives. I’m not afraid of my positions. They’re positions I believe in and positions I ran on,” Amash said... The generally left-leaning crowd gave Amash heat for supporting the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and a bill dismantling the U.S. Education Department. Amash got cheers for his support of immigrant families and civil rights. He told the crowd President Donald Trump needs to release more personal information, up to and including his tax returns if necessary, in order to ease ethical concerns.
But, more than anything, they thanked him for showing up and listening.
16-year old Holly Heathfield came with a group of classmates from Coopersville seeking extra credit in her government class. She asked Amash whether he supported expanded charter schools; she doesn’t, he does.
“Even though I don’t agree with all his views I do respect him for holding these meeting and hearing other people’s opinions. I think that’s really important for the community as a whole,” Heathfield said.
“You can see how hard it is to get people to accept the idea of non-partisan discourse,” Amash said after the event, “Of listening and working together and learning from each other, but I believe that a majority of Americans want something like that.”
The din of the hostile and harassing audience that filled the 1,000 seats of a high school auditorium Thursday night drowned him out.
"Explain yourself," they roared over him.
When the congressman did get a chance to speak, the crowd often didn't like what he had to say. And he knew it.
The town-hall meeting was 75 minutes of tense exchanges between Chaffetz and residents from across the state. They were frustrated by the Utah Republican's refusal to investigate President Donald Trump's potential conflicts of interest. They doggedly pursued him for his initiatives to transfer or sell public lands. They questioned his position on immigration and refugees.
And that was only half of the largely liberal crowd.
About 1,500 people stood outside Brighton High School, too far back to make the cut, their signs reading, "Do your job" and "America is better than this."
...The congressman addressed 13 questions, three focused on public lands and four on investigating Trump. The other subjects jumped from Planned Parenthood to air quality to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Noor Ul-Hasan, a Democratic activist, said, "If you want to continue to look into Hillary Clinton, I don't care. But why aren't you checking out your own president?"
Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said he's looking into comments made by Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to Trump, who plugged Ivanka Trump's fashion line in a national television interview.
"There's no case to be made that we went soft on the White House," Chaffetz said as police nervously patrolled the perimeter of the room. "In terms of doing my job, that's what I'm supposed to be doing."
Melissa Batka Thomas, from Salt Lake City, steadied her shaking hands as she read a quote from Chaffetz in which he called on presidential candidates to release their tax returns and "show everything."
"I'm asking you to explain what your timeline is to uphold your word or why there is a reluctance to do so," she said.
The congressman said, as he has before, that the president is "exempt" from conflict of interest laws. "Until there is evidence that [Trump] has somehow overused that to ingratiate his family …" Chaffetz said before boos cut him off.
...While discussing public-land use and his opposition to Bears Ears National Monument, Chaffetz was greeted by the strongest pushback of the night.
"I hope you do appreciate that not every person has the same viewpoint on the use of public lands," he said. "What we're trying to do is find a balanced approach."
The topic came up again, giving him a chance to speak about his bill to strip Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service employees of their law enforcement powers, an idea that elicited protest from the audience.
"I'm trying to be as representative as I can," he said.
Charlie Luke, a Democratic member of the Salt Lake City Council, wrote on Facebook that the harassment Chaffetz faced "ensured his reelection for as long as he chooses to run."
"It will embolden his majority Republican district," he wrote. "We need to resist, but let's be smart in the way we do it."
|This drooling imbecile represents TN-06 in Congress|
In November Trump only got 47.2% of the votes in Chaffetz's district, dramatically down from the 78.3% Romney got 4 years earlier. Clinton actually beat Trump in Salt Lake County 175,863 to 138,043. Chaffetz was reelected 186,743 (73.3%) to 68,104 (26.7%), a feat he's unlikely to duplicate in 2018. Halfway across the country in Tennessee, Diane Black, her state's most reactionary member of Congress, represents one of the state's two most backward fascist-oriented districts, TN-06, the north-central Tennessee district composed mostly of the suburbs and exurbs east of Nashville. She won every county in the district-- by a lot-- as did Trump. Trump beat Hillary there 72.6% to 23.7%. Black did nearly as well-- 71.1% to 21.8%. Her Murfreesboro town hall wasn't as raucous as Chaffetz's or McClintock's, but it was no love-fest either. One hundred of her constituents confronted her at an "Ask Your Reps" event hosted by the Middle Tennessee State University's College Republicans.
Mike Carlson, a 32-year-old student from Antioch, Tennessee, said that as an overweight man, he depended on Obamacare to stay alive.While Republicans were suffering through accountabilty sessions with their constituents, House Democrats were at a retreat in Baltimore where they tried to figure out what went wrong in November and how to move forward. As has become too commonplace among House Democrats-- so utterly dominated by timid corporatists-- everyone was all smiles and upbeat, while "progressives privately vented about being lectured to by a speaker from a moderate [note: when Politico writers use the word "moderate," they are invariably referring to corrupt right-wingers, in this case the putrid whores from Third Way] think tank. And several lawmakers worried that the Democratic leadership would be too dependent on consultants and data to chart a course forward, rather than focusing on a clearer vision for the party... [I]t’s obvious from private and public conversations with members and Democratic aides that the caucus is still struggling, trying to unite on a path forward while still fighting about how they got here in the first place."
"I have to have coverage to make sure I don't die. There are people now who have cancer that have that coverage, that have to have that coverage to make sure they don't die," Carlson said. "And you want to take away this coverage-- and have nothing to replace it with! How can I trust you to do anything that's in our interest at all?"
Black responded that Obamacare's individual mandate-- which requires everyone to have health insurance or pay a penalty-- still allowed millions, including many young and healthy people, to be without coverage.
"About 20 million people did actually come into the program who were uninsured," Black said. "You don't want to hurt one group of people to help the another. We can help both groups at the same time."
Bohon shot back: "How many of those people were in states where they played a political game with people's lives?"
Black appeared flustered, and declined to continue. "I'm going to pass this one," she said.
Bohon told CNN afterward that as a state employee, she receives health insurance through the state. Her question to Black, she said, was motivated in part by her Christian beliefs, as well as her upbringing in the coal-mining town of Grundy, Virginia.
"Growing up in the community that I grew up, in Appalachia, because we were so poor there that we had to take care of each other," Bohon said.
Both Carlson and Bohon told CNN that they voted for Hillary Clinton in the general election.
The same event hosted by MTSU's College Republican last year was attended by around 30 to 40 people, according to organizers. On Thursday night, the room was quickly filled to capacity while dozens outside chanted: "Let us in! Let us in!"
Black, along with two other GOP local officials, were at first asked questions that had been pre-submitted on the topics of healthcare and tax reform-- a format that clearly frustrated audience members and prompted some to interrupt.
At one point in the discussion, GOP State Rep. Mike Sparks told the room: "I'll be honest with you. As a state representative, I got health insurance. I feel a little guilty."
Multiple audience members could be heard responding: "You should."
Silicon Valley freshman Ro Khanna (D-CA) had far more to offer than Pelosi and her sad-sack eggshell-walking lieutenants. "We need to stop doing the autopsies, stop doing all this metric data stuff and listen to the visionary voices. [Trump] didn’t have deep-dive data. He bragged about not polling. He offered a vision based on what he thought was his vision." Khanna proposed including liberal economic thinkers like Robert Reich and Paul Krugman in Democratic Party discussions like the one they were having.
ABC News' John Parkinson and Mary Alice Parks reported more fully on what Khanna had to say.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, echoed, "I don’t think that running on Donald Trump’s missteps is going to win. That didn’t work for Hillary."
As she has often repeated since the election, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said again this week that the problem for Democrats during the election was messaging around their own ideas.
"There wasn't that clarity of the message coming through so we could represent we were the party of the working people," she said.
But Khanna and other progressive members in the party argue it isn’t that simple. They contend Democrats need to spend time crafting a clearer, populist economic agenda, in line with the ideas offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders during his presidential campaign, in order to present a concrete alternative to voters.
“What is the Democrats’ bold economic vision?” Khanna wondered rhetorically, during an interview with ABC News. “People get that the Democratic Party is for the little guy, but that is not a bold economic vision where it is clearly rejecting corporatists past, being populist and future looking and aspirational.”
He argued the passion and energy in the party right now was with the left and that he worries the party was looking for an all-inclusive “lowest common denominator” message to present that all members in the party, including more moderates, could get behind.
“I think the way to win is to be clear, to be bold, to be progressive, to look at where [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren and Sanders are taking the party and if there are 20 or 30 folks who are not onboard with it fine. But it is better to run with a bold, clear, contrasted vision of the future,” he said.
|Jim Himes (New Dem-Wall St)|
After the conference Progressive Caucus officers Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) issued this statement on the confirmation of Tom Price as Secretary of Health and Human Services. It's probably no more what Himes or his Third Way buddies would have like to have seen than it is what Chaffetz, Black and McClintock would embrace:
Rep. Tom Price has led the Republican crusade to dismantle Medicare and Medicaid as we know it. As the Chairman of the Budget Committee, Price has advocated for privatizing Medicare, and turning it into a voucher program, which would increase costs and harm our seniors and most vulnerable Americans.
He has worked to defund Planned Parenthood in order to restrict women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health services. And he has introduced legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which would threaten health care coverage for more than 20 million newly insured Americans.
With Price’s confirmation today, it is clear that Republicans are doubling down on their efforts to destroy these fundamental programs and turn health care over to the hands of insurance companies.
Health care is a right, not a privilege. The CPC will oppose any attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, privatize Medicare, or destroy Medicaid. We will fight to guarantee high-quality health care for all regardless of gender, age, or income.