6 steps for Republicans to show up at their own town halls and win • The Hill
Shortly after Donald Trump won the presidency, an Alinskite training manual in disruption started circulating for activists on the left, put out by President Obama’s Organize For Action partner “Indivisible.”
It instructs activists to infiltrate town halls or any public event as mere constituents, without any evidence that they are protestors, to take seats largely at the front of the room but also to spread out singly and in pairs to create the illusion of mass opposition. They are encouraged to ask deliberately hostile questions, not relinquish the microphone, and to be loud in condemning the GOP congressmen.
We’ve seen the results — and so have Republican congressmen, many of whom have retreated into their bunkers.
This is an understandable human reaction — who wants to have to go be reasonable with an audience salted with people whose entire purpose is to be unreasonable and get a gotcha moment on tape? Yet GOP members need to take a lesson from Kellyanne Conway, the ballsiest spokesman on the right, and show their constituents that they have guts and won’t be intimidated.
Yes, a town hall meeting in today's atmosphere will be challenging. It will be chaotic, even downright rude and hostile. And yes, we have a media that is as keen to make a handful of vocal protestors spread out in the classic diamond disruption pattern seem like an insurrection as they were determined in 2009 to dismiss the Tea Party hordes as a fringe group.
But actual constituents have real concerns and question that deserve answers, unfiltered by the media, and direct from the person they elected. Protesters who are attending the town hall meetings are playing an intimidation game and uninterested in hearing what Republican members have to say, and indeed have been encouraged to make their anger known about any and all Trump/GOP positions.
Most constituents in the room, however, sincerely want to hear about important issues like what our healthcare system will look like after ObamaCare is repealed and replaced. And they want to know they elected someone who cares enough to show up, to take the hard questions, and stand up for what he or she believes.
What should members do?
First, go to the damn meeting. Remember that they are there for their constituents, and that there is a lot on the line, it is worth standing up for, and that that is their job.
Second, because they are there for their constituents, listen and acknowledge concerns from everyone in the room, not just those who want to dominate the conversation. Ask for respect for everyone in the room.
Third, expect to outstay most of the people in the room, perhaps well past any scheduled conclusion, to make sure all the questions of their voters get answered as best they can.
Fourth, if protesters are there and won’t accept any answer but instead try to railroad the meeting, keep pointing out that they are being rude to the rest of the people in the room, who have given up their evenings and their time with their families and want answers to their questions. The tolerance of the audience for the protesters will be short when it becomes clear they don’t have respect for the rest of the attendees.
Fifth, record the meeting in toto, so that if someone wants to use selective footage, the rest of the story will also get out.
Sixth, come prepared. For example if the topic is health care, go to HealthReformQuestions.com and bring the quiz questions and answers to the meeting to engage the audience with the facts of the issue. Remind them that twice as many Americans report being hurt by ObamaCare, rather than helped by it.
Explain how the majority of those who gained insurance under ObamaCare were added to Medicaid, either because they were already eligible for Medicaid or because ObamaCare created the perverse incentive for their employers to drop coverage, and they will still have coverage after repeal.
Reassure them that Republicans plan to target assistance to those who truly need it — people with pre-existing conditions or who can't afford insurance on their own — but want to create a real marketplace that gives everyone else more options, makes insurance more affordable, and improves access to the care people need and want.
Showing up in spite of the bad behavior of some protesters shows that members of Congress can take the heat of doing their job and are taking the high road. If the protesters become unruly or shout down that representative, that says much more about the opposition — that they aren't interested in dialogue and progress, but only in disruption and pointless political grandstanding — than it does about any representative or the issue at hand.
Of course, given what we have seen at Berkeley and elsewhere, members may be advised to have police prudentially on hand to keep the peace and protect the attendees should that be needed. Expressing disagreement is appropriate, but derailing public dialogue is the antithesis of democratic process.
Even if some of these protests have been organized by and affiliated with liberal elites, members of Congress shouldn't get distracted by how these protests came to be or who is behind them. Rather they should use this fact to fuel a determination not to be cowed, and recognize this as a big opportunity to show their commitment to being the people's representative, and to be clear they understand who works for who.
They asked for our vote and volunteered to stand up and be counted. Now is the time to proudly defend their vision of the country as one that is both freer and more compassionate, as they work to make America great again.
Heather R. Higgins is president and CEO of Independent Women’s Voice, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that supports women by advancing conservative free market solutions.