[JD Note: In what follows, any mention of a congresscritter is followed, in brackets, by his/her/ its NumbersUSA rating on immigration issues, from immigration patriots rated “A” to Treason Lobby participants at “F.” My own representative, for example, is Steve Israel (F). Grrrr.]
This year’s Congressional recess runs from August 3rd to September 8th. That’s 37 days; at the time of posting this, we are a third of the way into it.
The House of Representatives then meets for eight days in the middle of September, mainly to wrap up fiscal business for the federal government’s 2013 Fiscal Year, which ends September 30th.
On this schedule, nothing at all will happen, or significantly fail to happen, until early October, seven or eight weeks from now.
In the meantime, some of us will have the chance to put our concerns directly to those who represent us. A much-advertised feature of the summer recess is the Town Hall meetings that representatives hold in their home districts, to hear the opinions of their constituents. Artist Norman Rockwell idealized the traditional Town Hall meeting in one of his 1943 “Four Freedoms” paintings for the Saturday Evening Post.
To judge from the handful of such meetings I have attended since my first, back in 1969, the reality sometimes falls short of the ideal. Grass-roots politics, if not firmly managed, can be a playground for lunatics and monomaniacs.
There was a fuss in Britain earlier this year when a senior person in the co-ruling Conservative Party was overheard describing party activists as “swivel-eyed loons.” [‘Swivel-gate’: David Cameron goes to war with the press over ‘swivel-eyed loons’ slur . by Brian Brady and Jane Merrick, The Independent , May 19, 2013 ]
Disgracefully elitist, of course (I am not being sarcastic). Most party activists are public-spirited citizens with earnest concerns about national policy.
Still, I doubt many politicians look forward with keen anticipation to their next Town Hall meeting.
And technology has come to their rescue. Back in June, the Associated Press reported a falling-off in the frequency of traditional Town Hall meetings, with “virtual” events taking up the slack, or some of it.
These days, lawmakers generally are holding fewer in-person public gatherings with constituents than they have in past years…Instead, members of Congress are relying far more on telephone and online forums. [Congressional Town Halls Held Less Frequently, Despite Hot Issues, By Thomas Beaumont And Charles Babington, AP, June 2, 2013]
Easy enough to understand, given the difficulties of managing a Town Hall meeting in the old, open style; yet still regrettable. E-meetings, phone-ins and webinars certainly have their place in the democratic process, but they are “colder” than the face-to-face format.
It is hard to see why “security” is any more of a concern now than it has been in the past. But on opposition to Obamacare, the New York Times, at least agrees. In a story this Monday, the Times specifically blamed the Tea Party for spooking congressfolk away from public meetings:
“The reason 2009 was so successful for the grass roots was because the politicians never saw it coming,” said Jennifer Stefano, the state director for the Pennsylvania chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party group. “Now they know. And they are terrified.”
[A Former Engine of the G.O.P., the Town Hall Meeting, Cools Down, New York Times, By Jeremy W. Peters, August 12, 2013.]
Neither AP nor the Times provided overall statistics to support the claim that Town Hall meetings are in decline, though the anecdotal evidence they offer is certainly suggestive. I have not been able to find any statistics on the internet.
Decline or no, there are some such events taking place this summer. ALIPAC—Americans for Legal Immigration PAC—has posted a useful list here. RedState is posting a rolling calendar of meetings. If other listings come to our attention, we’ll alert VDARE.com readers.
Of those Town Hall meetings that took place in the one-third of the congressional recess just past, reports have been conflicting. Jamie Weinstein at the Daily Caller website, who has a record of immigration enthusiasm, claimed on Wednesday morning that immigration patriots have been failing to show up:
August was supposed to be the month when those opposed to an immigration reform bill that provided a pathway to citizenship would speak up and storm Town Hall meetings. But so far, predictions of revolution seem to have been overstated.
[The immigration bill revolt that wasn’t? Daily Caller, August 14,, 2013.]
In Bel Air, Md., on the other hand, there does seem to have been some speaking up, reported by the MSM with much tongue-clicking:
The overflow crowd in the board of commissioners meeting room was overwhelmingly white and older, and booed loudly when one audience member asked [U.S. Rep. Andy] Harris [A] to support a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.
[Immigration campaign passes by some in GOP, Colorado Springs Gazette, August 12, 2013]
(The “immigration campaign” in the headline to that story, by the way, is a campaign in favor of amnesty. What else would it be? And note the deft playing of the “white and older” card there. Why would the crowd not be white and older? Bel Air is 88 percent white; the median resident age is 40.3. Don’t older whites count?)
Likewise in Topeka, Ks. this Wednesday, when U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins [A-] took a somewhat wobbly immigration-patriot stand:
“I’m for immigration if it’s done legally, but for people who broke the law I’m not for amnesty,” Jenkins said to applause. “We’re working through that process in (the) Judiciary (Committee) and (the) Homeland Security (Committee) in the House, and we’re going to have our own plan on how to do that.”
[Immigration comments stir passions at Jenkins forum, By Andy Marso, Topeka Capital-Journal, August 14, 2013.]
How to do what? What needs doing? Well, Kansas is farm country, remember:
“We’ve got ag groups that are advocating for something to be done, and I have farmers and ranchers that need something to be done, but I think they want it to be done in a legal fashion,” Jenkins said.
The moral of these stories about Town Hall meetings: immigration patriots need to find out when and where their congresspeople are exposing themselves to constituents, and make polite but frank appeals to them.
Ask them, for example, why, with 10.4 million Americans unemployed, it is good policy to give eleven million foreign scofflaws access to the U.S. job market?
Or hit them—politely, with a minimum of eye-swiveling—with one or two of the 19 ZeroHedge bullet points.
Republican representatives in particular need their spines stiffened. In districts like Rep. Jenkins’, where agriculture or other cheap-labor lobbies are influential, GOP representatives are being pulled towards amnesty by powerful financial forces. Let them know this is a path to lost votes.
Sure, money counts in politics—it counts far too much, many of us think. But it’s still votes that get you elected.
Edmund Burke wrote of
the difficulty under which the Sovereign labours, to distinguish the genuine voice and sentiments of his people, from the clamour of a faction, by which it is so easily counterfeited.
Let the voice and sentiments of the people be heard.
John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. His most recent book, published by VDARE.com com is FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle).His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.