They Run (for Office) and They Hide….

The unremitting chaos in Washington has triggered a number of Town Halls in which GOP members of Congress have faced rooms filled with angry constituents. As a result, a number of other Representatives have evidently decided against holding such events.

Not surprisingly, hiding from the people you represent hasn’t made those constituents very happy. Their reactions have varied.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a woman who lives in Indiana’s Fifth District, represented by Congresswoman Susan Brooks. She told me that she and several of her friends and neighbors had been frustrated by Brooks’ unwillingness to hold a Town Hall, so they decided that they would organize a meeting and invite her. If she wasn’t going to take the initiative, they would.

A meeting was organized via Facebook and word of mouth, and at 2:00 in the afternoon of May 13rth, approximately 120 5th District constituents gathered at the Sullivan Muncie Cultural Center in Zionsville.

Brooks declined to appear, nor did she send a representative, so the organizers set up an empty chair with her photo and proceeded to conduct a meeting without her.

According to her report, the voters who gathered at the Cultural Center were there primarily to voice their very serious concerns about the GOP Healthcare Plan, although  several other issues were raised as well.

Given the Congresswoman’s reluctance to attend either in person or through a surrogate, the organizers anticipated an effort to dismiss attendees as “agitators” or people from outside the district; in order to rebut any such claims, they prepared a “sign in” book in which those present provided their names, addresses and emails.  During the meeting, each voter was offered an opportunity to speak, to fill out a card with questions for Ms. Brooks, and to sign a large paper scroll expressing their views. The organizers plan to deliver these items to Brooks’ office.

The constituents who spoke at the nearly three-hour meeting shared stories of people with pre-existing conditions, children with ongoing medical needs, and people injured on the job who then saw those jobs eliminated. They  talked about the extent to which they and their families would be harmed by the repeal of Obamacare and its replacement by the current iteration of the GOP healthcare bill.  Some cried.

At the conclusion of the emotional meeting, those in attendance agreed to redouble efforts to meet face to face with Congresswoman Brooks. With or without the Congresswoman, however, they are determined to hold a series of Town Hall Meetings throughout the 5th District.

What is remarkable about this–at least to me–was the event’s genesis and spontaneity. I’ve complained bitterly over the years about Hoosiers’ civic apathy and lack of political engagement, our embarrassingly low voter turnout…Yet here in central Indiana, with no partisan sponsorship, no encouragement from activist organizations, no donations from any lobby or special interest group, ordinary voters got together and demanded to be heard.

It will be fascinating to watch this new democratic (small d) wave play out, not just in Indiana but in Congressional districts across the country. Will elected officials listen? If not, will they be voted out? How safe are those safe, gerrymandered districts?

What’s that old saying? They can run but they can’t hide….


  1. I have a friend who has been apolitical, until this year. She has always voted but had rarely gone to meetings, ect. What is going on has energized her to become a more engaged voter and participant in a group that wishes to be heard. I will not be surprised to see many who have been quiet in the past step up, like the group in Zionsville. There are rumblings. Maybe there will be fewer ‘safe districts’ in the fall of ’18.

  2. The voice of democracy will be heard. “We the people” elected them and we can dump them. The chaos that has resulted from this administration (and a 3rd grader with temper tantrums trying to be president) has turned many (including myself) into an activist.

  3. I wonder if their efforts will change anything. I just read that the fellow in Montana who assaulted a reporter for asking him a question (and I believe, was arrested for assault), won the special election. Sometimes I wonder if a homicide charge would be sufficient to get people to change their votes.

  4. Rep. Brooks knows who butters her bread. Hearing complaints from constituents means nothing to these folks who were hired by dollars flowing from out of state donors. These meetings are “feel-good” meetings for constituents.

    The government has been bid off to the highest bidder. Until Citizens United is overturned, this will not end well. We don’t have a democracy. It’s always been a Plutocracy – in the hands of a few. Now it’s more like a Kleptocracy – in the hands of thieves.

    The rich white capitalists are undoing all the progress made since the New Deal. They cross state lines and buy seats if they have to in order to accomplish their plans.

    We can’t rely on the free and independent press, either. In Montana, a millionaire right-winger body slammed a reporter from The Guardian for asking about healthcare policies. The candidate was already mad because The Guardian had connected him to Russian business interests and corrupt business dealings. Not only did the candidate win the election last night, after he body slammed the journalist he raised $100,000 from online donations. He’s facing misdemeanor assault charges and will be serving the fine people of Montana in Washington.

    Mass media owned by Plutarchs are a joke and for those wanting to actually perform journalism, it’s becoming hazardous. As an editor, how do you send people into the field knowing this is allowable or acceptable behavior?

    And don’t think this is an R or D issue because our previous administration was the worst on whistleblowers. Internationally, we now rank 86th for press freedom. It means we’re a closed society. They have all the Power and the people have none. If you think they will voluntarily hand over what they’ve stolen, think again. All the progress made from the New Deal forward is fair game for elimination. The Libertarians want the negative rights of the original constitution.

    The only solution was to start with Bernie Sanders but the corporate owned Democratic Party screwed him over. As Noam Chomsky called him, “Bernie is a New Dealer, but our country has moved so far to the right that he even calls himself a socialist.”

    Rep. Brooks & Messer are owned by the Koch brothers. They don’t need to respond to constituents. Evan Bayh had name recognition and money, but still got beat by outside money with an inferior candidate. That says much…

  5. As long as there are safe districs for Rs and they have access to massive war chests for re-election I am unable to see any positive changes take place, no matter what citizens try to do.

    As long as citizens keep watching and listening to the alt-right extremist propaganda tv and radio commentators those voters will continue to be steadfast in their political views will be loyal to the people they voted into office, even though they are damaging or destroying the lives of those voters.

    We need to figure out a way to fight back against that propaganda with the truth. It seems that the only way you can get the attention of those voters is to yell and scream and convince that they are being threatened. Speaking calmly and intelligently to them about what is happening doesn’t get their attention. They respond loudly to the lies they are being fed because those liars are filling them with fear.

  6. Not having the benefit of learning civics in school; is there some law, rule, ordinance against the Democrats holding Town Hall meetings? NOW is the time for Democratic voices to be heard from all quarters; with agendas provided publicly and a welcome to Republicans who are also against the current administration’s determination to drive middle American into poverty and provide them with a lingering, painful death due to no health care or the ability to buy medications. NOW is also the time to actively be knocking on doors to register voters in all neighborhoods.

    I am just as angry (pissed) at the Democrats who refuse to appear in public meetings as the Republicans who ignore their own voters begging to be heard. The entire nation – and the world – is now aware of the physical attack on a member of the press by a Republic candidate in Montana which mirrored the physical attacks at Trump Rallies, encouraged by him. We are also aware that attacker was elected, as was Trump who continues to verbally attack the media and our foreign allies.

    Here in Indiana we have more important matters to attend to than Trump’s concentrated efforts to “deconstruct” our government, repeal the Constitution and alienate our allies from here and while abroad while spreading his stupidity on the international level. From the Indianapolis Star this morning; “Lawmakers to weigh ‘archaic’ alcohol laws” “Indiana lawmakers will spend their summer pouring over the state’s complicated mixture of alcohol laws, following a heated legislative session debate this spring over which retailers should be allowed to sell cold beer.” Buy your beer today or tomorrow for your planned Memorial Day celebrations or you are out of luck.

    The Indiana health care situation appears, to Republicans, to be resolved to their satisfaction. Susan Brooks is not the only Republican who did not appear at a Town Hall meeting, or any other meeting to which she/they had been specifically invited. Did the Democrats plan any Town Hall meetings; did they receive invitations to neighborhood gatherings?

  7. “Will elected officials listen? If not, will they be voted out? ”

    No, they will not listen. And sadly, they will not be voted out because the party-loyal, straight ticket voters in Indiana care about nothing but their precious party. In my younger days, the “establishment” had one answer for those who disagreed with the politicians in power: “America–love it or leave it.” We dissidents had a response: “America–fix it or f*** it.” Looking at today’s political landscaped, it’s apparent that America has been f***ed. I hope it’s not beyond fixing.

  8. One of the dangers of early voting is that a candidate can do something illegal, such as assault, and still win, because people can’t take back their votes. The question is, will the voters of Montana remember or even care about this in 2018?

  9. I’ve heard the Democrats have a young, dynamic new Chairwoman in the 5th who is helping organize the opposition to Brooks.

  10. Universal healthcare. We need it.

    It’s too bad the Democrats punted and dusted off the Romney/Heritage Foundation program with a few additional tweaks (thanks to Max Baucus and insurance lobbyists) as a tepid response to America’s healthcare needs..

    If the Democrats can’t bring themselves to support universal healthcare (something every industrialized country has–with the exception of South Afrika) or even Medicare For All,then they too,as with republicans,want Americans to die.

  11. In neighboring South Dakota when their lone congressweaselwoman held her townie it was in the local police station. Same for Marlboro Barbie Sen Thune. The other Senator-Rounds sez the Senate is too busy to allow many townhall meetings. When Rounds ran for the Senate seat he didn’t show for any debates so his opponent carried a cardboard cutout of Rounds and set it up at the debates. Unfortunately, in embarrassingly red South Dakota ‘Cardboard Mike’ won the election.

  12. JoAnn, re your comments on town halls:

    I have called Sen Donnelly’s offices several times to suggest that now is the time to come back home and hold as many town halls as possible. I suggested that he hold town halls especially in the extremely Red counties/districts.

    I mentioned to them that the only time he has been in my county was a couple years ago for a photo op at a manufacturing plant. This is NOT meeting with the constituents that voted for him. Finally, I mentioned that he doesn’t have much hope for keeping his job if he doesn’t take the time to hold town halls back home.

    The emails for contributions to his campaign have been coming in daily now. I finally hit the unsubscribe button. No true representation – no donation.

  13. re: Todd Smekens :”Rep. Brooks & Messer are owned by the Koch brothers. They don’t need to respond to constituents. Evan Bayh had name recognition and money, but still got beat by outside money with an inferior candidate. That says much…”

    Yep. And the Koch brothers own many many others. The town halls seem to me to be a lost cause.

    What I am getting about dissent in this country is that it has become a hurdle for both the administration, and those (even more powerful) behind the scenes, in power to quash. In the near future we will be learning the effectiveness of the so-called democratic will “of the people” My money is on the the strength of that will, but that little voice we all have tells me to be “very afraid.” have also never been so afraid.

  14. Nancy; that old adage, “A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.” is certainly true regarding Donnelly. Had Mourdock not made his stupid comment, “If a woman gets pregnant from a rape, God must want her to have that baby.” he would have been elected and Donnelly would have become a has-been. When you think about it; he and many others are in-office has-beens doing nothing but sitting in office collecting our tax dollars.

  15. It’s beginning to look like it will take threats to life and the risk of unnecessary suffering to get people involved in the political process. Whatever it takes, that’s good. What’s also interesting is that it exposes politicians like Brooks for their lack of accountability and devotion to their own political agendas–i.e., doing what the party tells her to do, instead of doing what her constituents want. Well, maybe for her attending the “right” cocktail parties won’t be enough next time around.

  16. JoAnn – “When you think about it; he and many others are in-office has-beens doing nothing but sitting in office collecting our tax dollars.”

    So true….

  17. William @ 9:30 > Universal healthcare. We need it.

    HR 676 sponsored by John Conyers Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act. HR 676 features health care that includes all medically necessary care, such as primary care and prevention, dietary and nutritional therapies, prescription drugs, emergency care, long-term care, mental health services. HR 676 now has 112 Co-Sponsors, all Democrats. Absent from the list of Co-Sponsors is Nancy Pelosi.

    I am in Susan Brook’s district. I wrote her several letters asking her to co-sponsor HR 676. I included in my letter facts which demonstrated Canada, France, Germany, and Japan all pay less as a percentage of GDP and Per Capita than we do here in the USA. Not only that but each of these countries has better Longevity than the US. Conclusion we pay more here in the US and do not live as long.
    Her response: . “I do not believe that implementing this legislation (HR 676) is the best way to solve the problems with our nation’s healthcare system. As we have seen with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, increasing government intrusion into an individual’s medical choices results in higher costs for everyone and inhibits economic growth.”
    Now, oddly enough I have Medical Coverage through the VA, which of course is delivered by the government. I have no problems with the VA Health Care system. Brooks does not mention how the insurance market limits access to health care via “in and out of network providers” or with co-pays and deductibles, these issues pre-dated ACA.

    Brook’s answer seems driven by ideology – that is do not confuse me with facts. So let’s look at this another way: Campaign Contributions.

    >> Her Number #1 contributor by Industry (drum roll please) Pharmaceuticals/Health Products, $144,000, #2 Health Professionals $105,128, #8 Insurance $49,500, #16 Health Services/HMOs $29,250.

  18. Louie, So maybe the only way to get Susan Brooks to truly represent her constituents is to pay her. By my calculations the good folks in her district would have had to raise over $227,878 to get her support for their health issues. And we think that Russia is corrupt!

  19. This is nothing near to being representative government. My guess though is once the full import of the draconian and outright cruel changes to health care and the tax code in this country sink in fully there will be outrage over them, much deeper outrage than there is already. Nevertheless, the GOP is running television ads touting how wonderful the AHCA is which are totally disingenuous in their content in the hope of pacifying the opposition to these changes. Not sure who is funding these ads but they are very slick and upbeat extolling Americans to “thank Speaker Ryan and the Republicans in Congress” for all their hard work on providing great healthcare for all when the truth is something obviously far different.

    These people are living in the echo chamber of all the lies they told about the ACA and have told them and follow on lies that it seems as if they really believe their copy and can’t understand the building opposition to what they have done and are doing so they tune it out. They honestly believe that they are doing what’s best for the American people and refuse to entertain any thoughts to the contrary. The lies they tell are so deeply engrained that they really don’t have anything to say. OMB Director Mulvaney lied through his teeth to Senator Bernie Sanders yesterday regarding the AHCA and their proposed cuts to Medicaid, expecting Sanders to accept what he said at face value and then he completely fell apart when he Sanders gloriously didn’t. Mulvaney likely lost 10 pounds through sweat at the hands of Senator Sanders.

    We have to be determined to vote these fools out and before then hammer them at every opportunity with the truth and also calling them out for cowardly ducking town hall meetings and refusing to answer constituent mail and phone calls. We need to do it, county by county, city and town by city and town until they get the message that we are not going to accept what they are trying to do. Since this bill will likely be DOA in the Senate then the same tactics need to be made in regard to that body of Congress as well. Their offices need to be flooded with constituent phone calls, letters and emails and they also need to be called out for non responses when they attempt to duck their responsibilities to those that elected them.

    The stakes for all of us are so high that we should mount a wartime footing on these people until they get the message and those that don’t be voted out. We cannot allow them to implement what they have in mind for all of us and we need to let them all know in a very upfront way that we won’t stand for it.

  20. I attended this wonderful event. The local media is not covering such events and specifically the Indi Star does not discuss the lack of response to constituents that has been demonstrated by many of our state and federal elected officials. Local tv shows rarely mention political issues that impact all hoosiers. Until our voices are amplified by the media, these politicians will ignore us.

  21. Heather is spot on with this issue. Unfortunately, for the media news it will take more than just the will to report; it will take hiring real journalists not “personalities”. How refreshing that would be!

  22. If I were America’s new dictator, I would instruct my minions to change many things…except America’s right to free speech. With free speech, Americans have been conditioned to vent instead of acting on their complaints. I, the dictator, would feel safe from overthrow and coup, as long as the whining and griping has the power to dissipate the urge to act .

  23. as a long time Libertarian I note that these “town hall” and similar meetings are often just set ups, in many cases, to promote the same old plans and the same old candidates of the same old Democratic party. It reminds me of the old days, when I was a kid, when the adults would buy a Chevy from the local Chevy-Olds-Buick dealer. Upon being disappointed with the poor quality of Chevy, GM, and the local dealer, they would show their dissatisfaction by buying a Buick from the same local Chevy-Olds-Buick dealer, same service department, same bank, same salesman. This would show “them”. Go to the credit union and then the Toyota dealer? Not hardly. Ask the Chevy dealer for the same -o. That’s what I see a LOT of.

  24. Heather and Theresa I agree. The Star on Friday had page after page of Sports, Sports, Sports, and where to eat in Indianapolis, etc., etc. The TV Media is dispatching their “reporters” to cover the 500. The focus of our local media is bread and circus.

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