Jeff Flake held a town hall! I was there!

14 Apr 2017 04:58 pm
Posted by: Donna

When I arrived via light rail at the Mesa Convention Center Thursday evening for Senator Jeff Flake’s town hall there was a long line of cars waiting to get in the parking lot and the extra-large event room was already nearly full.

I expected there would be more people on my side in the audience than the other but I wasn’t prepared to see so many YES ACA stickers on shirts (a woman in a chicken costume – signifying Flake’s reticence in standing up to President Trump is my guess – was handing them out) before my eyes.

I tweeted furiously throughout the event, and you can check out my feed if you’re interested in my searing real-time takes. Suffice it to say the people lined up to interrogate the Senator, one by one, had done their homework and checked their answers twice on topics ranging from health care to climate change to information security.

And yes, because local pearl-clutching pundits are wont to emphasize it, there was a lot of yelling.

Credit where it’s due, it was obvious early on this was not going to be a pleasant experience for him but our junior Senator gamely strode out on that stage and faced it. Flake tried valiantly to defend himself against a barrage of difficult questions with his trademark bland affability and carefully memorized talking points and dodges but this crowd simply wasn’t having it.

Some moments I found particularly memorable, and telling, included Flake answering a young scientist’s excellent, detailed question about Flake’s well-known disdain for scientific research funding – which is hugely important and barely a tiny fraction of federal spending – by citing the deficit. However, to several questions about the President’s constant trips to Mar-a-Lago, at taxpayer expense that will end up dwarfing the budget for science research, Flake’s response was that it wasn’t his business what the President did with his free time, the deficit and his famous rock-ribbed fiscal conservatism seemingly forgotten.

Several women went to the microphone to challenge Flake on his deplorable record on reproductive rights, including his recent support of the law Trump had quietly signed that day allowing states to pull funding from Planned Parenthood (warning: link autoplays). It was rage-inducing hearing Flake repeat the oft-debunked canards about “tax payer-funded abortion” and “thousands of federally funded clinics that do what Planned Parenthood does“. Flake then compounded it by condescendingly rebutting the women’s detailed accounts of the necessity of Planned Parenthood in their lives with “I disagree”, as if it were a debate over what color the curtains should be rather than women’s health and lives being at stake.

So Flake got yelled at, a lot. I can already hear the comparisons to Tea Party behavior at events held by Democratic lawmakers in 2010. Okay, fair enough, yelling is yelling in terms of volume and how jarring it can be. But not all yelling is equal in terms of the anger behind it being justified. The Tea Party protesters were offended by the Kenyan Usurper giving health care to minorities and outraged over lies they’d been fed by right wing media, such as “death panels”, and were uninterested in anything Democratic Reps like Harry Mitchell or Ann Kirkpatrick had to say and mostly unamenable to rational arguments.

I also distinctly remember the national and local media being very deferential to the Tea Party, treating them like a refreshing grassroots political movement and taking their stated concerns at face value. News teams showed up for every TP event, no matter how sparsely attended, and lavished attention on the participants, rarely questioning the overall incoherence of their views or challenging their obvious contempt for President Obama and his voters. So, pundits, miss me with your sudden concern for propriety, okay?

Also, pundits, when the accusation of “paid protesters” arises, as it so often does when Republicans attempt to distract from the endless monstrosities being protested, ask yourself why anyone needs to be paid to protest the destruction of education, democracy, and the environment and demand evidence from the Republican making the charge.

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