America was a country envisioned to be a free society, without a royal class owning the property and rewarding their friends and family with titles of nobility and given property to lord over the serving class, the serfs who worked that property for the benefit of the lords. Serfs of old times would be much like those of us in the blue collar jobs today, except we have had the freedom to strike out on our own and to increase our own wealth and own property ourselves.
Instead of a King rewarding those he wished to reward, we were granted the right to own property ourselves and unlike other government systems, we took for ourselves the right to determine who would be chosen to represent us in government. Those we elected are to serve us, not we serve them. They hold office at our leisure and during campaigns we hear promises from those hoping to be selected to represent us of how they will listen to us, they do as we wish in governance and they will be our voices in Washington D.C., our state capitols or even city & county government.
Once in office, those promises seem to fall by the wayside until the next election, regardless of what political party the particular elected comes from.
We see this clearly in the last few years in our town hall meetings, where the elected returns from Washington D.C. to stand before voters and listen to our wants and needs and explain what they have been doing and answer for their actions and votes. Town halls are probably one of the, if not the most important contact our elected officials have to keep in broad contact with us.
So why do we see less and less face to face town halls today? Yes, town halls became contentious a couple years ago, mostly because voters are unhappy with their representatives conduct and actions. But, that is known beforehand when you run for office that you will not please everybody, but it does give the elected one the opportunity to explain why they voted as they did and why it will be for the benefit of their district.
You may hear the sudden rise of the Tea Party started it, but that is not quite accurate. The anti-war left bused in angry protesters from outside of the district to confront former Democrat congressman Brian Baird long before the Tea Party rose to prominence over his vote to support President Bush’s surge in Iraq. Two years later, Baird was labeling those from the right who were opposing the takeover of our healthcare system by the Obama administration as “Brown Shirts with a lynch mob mentality” as he declined to hold more town halls. He soon recanted and held town halls after public outcry and even the Columbian scolding him over the decision.
Baird’s reluctance to hold face to face town halls was made part of the campaign strategy against him by those initially running against him before he announced he would retire after 8 terms in office.
After winning the election in 2010, Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler penned an op ed where among her promises to constituents were:
“My office will be a ‘no arrogance zone.’ I was not elected to be a master; my duty is to be your public servant. My door will be open to every citizen.”
“Listening to Southwest Washington — fixing problems. I will listen and respond, and the people who work on my staff will be servants for Clark County and the rest of this region. When federal agencies overstep their bounds, I will be on your side.”
It’s no secret that I opposed Herrera feeling she was not up to par for the office she elected to, thanks in large part to dirty tricks and backstabbing tactics against fellow Republicans. Still, she got the seat and accepted the responsibilities of the office and will hold it at least until the next election, further if re-elected.
Jaime has held a few face to face town halls and the last couple ones she was confronted by constituents in disagreement, including her former High School Principal accusing her of drinking the “Republican Kool-Aid.”
Local Moveon.org activists have held rallies outside of her office, often followed by Tea Party activists rallying outside of her office. She has held several “tele-townhalls” where if you are lucky enough to be home when the unexpected and unannounced call come in, you may listen in and if really lucky, chosen to ask a question over the phone. To be fair, Brian Baird and others held these too much to the angst of constituents.
I wasn’t too surprised then to read In the Columbian, No town halls with Herrera Beutler, Congresswoman’s staff inviting small groups to ‘coffees’ while she’s home.
Besides the obvious implication of carefully screened individuals will be those most likely to be invited, this is contrary to her words written in her op-ed linked above and comments left on the article are not favorable, just as it was when Brian Baird did the same back in 2009.
What is disturbing and also unfair, nowhere in the article are we told that this tactic is also heavily used by our two Democrat Senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Both have been in Clark County recently to meet with selected groups and Murray has held some tele-townhalls, once when I was fortunate enough to be one who received the call and actually be home for an unannounced call.
I have never received any invitation or notice of a Maria Cantwell town hall in our area nor do I recall the Columbian or any other newspaper in the state writing about their lack of townhalls with constituents.
Patty Murray recently held a “listening session” for Veterans, but I don’t recall much prior notice given to the community of Veterans and it wasn’t a meeting for non-Veteran related issues.
Maria Cantwell was recently in town pandering to extend tax credits to a company, while she joins in the call of others to end tax credits to other businesses paying taxes and creating jobs.
Both ladies are quick to hold campaign rallies asking for your money in Clark County, but who holds them accountable for not being available to hear from constituents as they are Jaime currently?
If not making themselves available to hear from constituents, are they really representing us? Or representing those they know agree with their personal views?
The all earn exceptionally good wages compared to the rest of us. They receive exceptional benefits and travel opportunities that many taxpayers who pay their wages and benefits will never see. They even vote in their own wages and benefits packages and work in fortified buildings protected by federal officers.
Emails to any of them are fruitless as you will always receive a generic non-committal form reply not even addressing your concern.
And, they won’t even make themselves available to hear our concerns.
While it is right to hold Jaime Herrera Beutler accountable for not being willing to face constituents, shouldn’t Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell also be held accountable?