I debated about 10 minutes with myself (well I may have been frying eggs at the same time too) about writing a blog post about politics. I think I’ve done it once before or maybe tucked a few over on medium.
But I get to make the rules around here. So I am using a completely meaningless silly category name as a cheek in tongue. Plus the origin story of “goat sucker” is bizarre. And I learned of it last year in the place of that origin.
I did not vote nor do I care much for my Congressional Representative, Paul Gosar. I have gotten his emails for 2 years and about 80% were tirades about President Obama. Well, he needs new material now (though you still find graphics on Gosar’s site).
So during this week of “recess” (I try to imagine Congress running around playing freeze tag), Gosar was holding an “event” in Apache Junction, with some other Representative named “Brat” from Virginia about 2 hours away. It was not a town hall. Protests were planned, and I heard that there was so much interest that they switched the format to a “Teletown Hall”.
First time I heard that term. I saw it mentioned this morning in my news app in Huffington Post “Testy Town Halls Driving Many GOP Lawmakers To Simply Duck Them“.
So seat of the pants I felt an animated GIF brewing…
Chicken-fied Representatives pic.twitter.com/MYKQeGcoPA
— Alan Levine (@cogdog) February 23, 2017
But I did hear tonight that Gosar has done quite a few series of these since he was elected in 2013, an one might consider it sensible considering the size of the 4th district and how remote many of the towns are in it. I might be off base with my GIF (but it was soooooo fun to make)
But watch this video about the company that runs the technology of these town halls:
You cannot avoid the controlled nature of the way the technology is described. Back in 2008 Huffpo questioned the ethics of this approach:
a Tele Town Hall Meeting can aggregate thousands of listeners – and “fine tune” the audience to make sure it shares the representative’s views on the issues. If the representative wishes, everyone on the call can be pre-screened to be very happy.
Not quite so benign, though, is the fact that there are no reporters to document what gets said to whom – or in what tone. This kind of voice-over-internet is voice under the radar as well. This absence of the press seems to particularly appeal to right wing politicians who maintain what some might consider to be outside-the-mainstream positions on some issues.
So I called in to my first Teletown Hall tonight. I did it while walking my dog for our pre-dinner outing.
I never heard of Dave Brat before. I guess one way to avoid angry town halls in Virginia is to go to Arizona and phone it in. We got his back story, and quite a few enumerations of his ethics and how his seminary experience shaped him. Oh and he’s en economics expert. He has a book.
I can’t say if it added or subtracted to have this other COngressman on the line. I could slightly take Gosar’s assertion that it shows how they work together, how they have different strengths. There was a moderate amount of mutual buttering up.
The first call in question asked about the repeal of Obamacare, which is number one of concern to me. It did not sounds like the person who asked the question was asking it because he was concerned about losing his insurance. There was the expected lambasting what a failure it was, how it needed ot be repeal, waxing how it would become so patient centered under the Republicans, and how introducing competition was going to magically Make Everything Alright.
The ne positive thing I got here, from Brat (after a bit of rant how “this is what you never hear from the FAKE news media”), was his assertion that there would be a two year transition period. That’s the first I heard of that. But all the suggestions were the same generalities you get from their web sites-there will be HSAs, and credits, and competition, and high risk pools.
That’s the word that gives me the shivers, because as a diabetic, that feels like I might be floating in that pool.
I won’t go though the other questions. There were no critical or oppositional callers, all were Gosar fans (each question was greeted with, “That’s an excellent question, Frank!” as they all seemed like soft lobbed wiffle balls). One caller was a supporter from Sedona that Gosar mentioned by name and asked about his wife, another was the mayor of Apache Junction whom Gosar had met with that morning, another was a women who mentioned seeing him at a campaign event and Gosar remembered her daughter.
Nothing suspicious in the selection of callers.
A tell-tale slant was the phone surveys the host dude did as several breaks. These questions were so loaded a 4th grade social studies student could see through them:
- “Are you paying to much for Obamacare and getting too little?”
- “Do you support completion of a border wall to keep out Mexican drug lords and criminals?”
- “Do you support extreme vetting of refugees from known terrorist countries?”
These are all slanted and biased, and of course, got the percentage support one might expect from the audience.
There was Hillary bashing and Brat had a diatribe about how pathetics the Democrats were because they “had no agenda”. Maybe I don’t disagree, but how can Democrats even have a strategy when the numbers are stacked against them on all sides?
One of the call in questions was a rant from an energetic woman who was furious about the tactics of Change.org in her town, and something about them using an autistic boy in a commercial to dissuade from some issue about the Forest Service and a golf course (?) I could not follow her, but she also claimed that her right to life group was not allowed to be part of the Woman’s March last month in Prescott. All I got was the insinuation of needing alliance in fighting off the “liberal left establishment”
Following her up Brat warned the audience to be wary and do their research of opposition groups like Organizing For Action (OFA) and Indivisible. Brat talked about how these groups wanted to generate insurrection and disruption, saying it was from the mission statement in Indivisible.
That is ironic, because if you read the guide, the whole premise is to adopt the same strategies that made the Tea Party successful, which I doubt Brat would cite so negatively.
I have to say, semi-related, that I worry about the use of the term “fake news”, even when criticizing it. The original reference was to shady organizations who deliberately manufactured false stories meant to mislead and confuse. But now it’s used as a target to paint news coverage that one side does not like. It’s a phrase that has been hijacked, and that’s the last time I will use it.
So that was my first TeleTown Hall. I’m rather dismayed at what feels like an orchestrated one side messaging effort. It’s not the kind of town halls my friend Bryan Alexander describes as how things get done in small Vermont Towns. it’s not the kind of space my friend describes in the little town of Paonia COlorado, where people who don’t agree- ranchers, miners, and green hippy farmers, all come together in the town brewery.
What it feels like is that the elected majority are paying all the attention to their fans. Maybe it’s simplistic, but while Paul Gosar was elected by more Republicans in his district, his oath is to represent everyone. I don’t know him well enough to say if he is not doing this, but I am studying. And I have to leave some room to consider that when the Democrats had dominant power, they may too have focused mostly on their constituencies.
Maybe it’s rose colored glasses, but it seems like in times of the past that a number of honorable elected officials assumed a decorum of representing everyone they represented, not just those who put them there. They did not call people who criticize them as enemies. They did not make war with those who they disagreed with
Alas, this is no rose colored era.
And the towns where these tele meetings happen?? They are surreal.