Public discourse is strained, so much so that a local gathering of Republicans in sleepy River Forest, Illinois drew protestors. The lightning rod was Congressman Roskam, guest speaker, who has been under fire in his own district recently for ducking questions from his constituents on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). But perhaps protestors would have shown up anyway since they were locals, and there is growing discontent among River Forest voters over the state of national politics.
Here is what an on-the-spot reporter said of the evening in an Open Letter to Congressman Roskam. You might be interested in reading the additional commentary from an attendee following the letter.
I was invited to protest the event by an acquaintance, but responded that I had already RSVP’ed to attend. Nationally, Republicans are our best hope in the short-term to temper President Trump’s authoritarianism. During the #womensmarch postcard project, I wrote to several nationally ambitious Republicans, such as Marco Rubio, appealing to them for positive leadership (listen to his meaningful speech the other day asking for greater civility, later in the debate during which Senator Warren was silenced). Locally, we need competitive (moderate) Republicans to help keep Democratic representatives on the straight and narrow path. In my area, Democrats can get elected despite personal scandal or lackluster results in State governance. If politics is at least, in part, a competition of ideas, then we need fair competition and districting to keep representatives accountable and count votes fairly.
Last evening let me down. It was not like a town hall meeting. The speakers did not entertain questions. Mix and mingle, before and after, did not lend itself to meaningful dialogue. One of the speakers lauded the Tea Party whose “North Star is the U.S. Constitution”. But when he spoke with eloquence about defending the Constitution, I kept thinking about how Trump is threatening our Constitution (free speech, other branches of government, separation of church and state). Yet the speaker did not acknowledge Trump’s controversial executive orders, (other than to share excitement that the immigration ban is testing the limits of judicial authority) and both speakers only minimally mentioned his name. More notably, there was no conversation about local politics and how to make Republicans more competitive in the marketplace of ideas locally.
Where and when can we all gather for honest conversation, instead of having one set of ideas on one side of the door and one on the other? If no one else has an answer for me, I may start thinking I need to arrange a town hall myself! Are you game to help me?