Monday, June 25, 2018

Week 6/66: Conversations

I went to a "town hall" meeting held by the Republican senator from my state, and it was literally held in a town hall of a town that's got maybe 800 people.  The senator's "people" had communicated only (as they later said) with local(ish) people who had called or written the senator's office, and told only those people about the meeting.

So one of my friends was told, and spread the news.  But then someone else told her it was a different time.  So there was much confusion and denial from his staffers that 1) there was any meeting at all, 2) that they couldn't give any information, and 3) yes, there's a meeting, but it's an hour earlier than had been announced.

I called the local TV channel news office and they hadn't heard anything.

But my friend drove, and someone else came, too, and I went, and we drove for an hour.

We were all (as we talked about later) expecting this to be a meeting with lots of MAGA hats and much conservative cheering.  My friend had been told that Republican politicians holding town meetings weren't allowing anyone to record them, and their staffers were temporarily confiscating phones and such, so she had three devices to record, one of which you couldn't tell was recording because it looked like it's off.  Just in case.

She's also heard that Republican politicians were holding town halls that were mostly just talking points and pre-screened questions.

Anyway, we got there early, and sat in the second row.  And gradually, before the senator arrived, the room filled.  There were folks wearing dairy cooperative shirts, and one MAGA hat worn by a very young man, there was a Native American veteran, and some other men in veteran's gear (like hats saying "Navy Vet" or whatever).  And there were some folks wearing shirts with the name of a local Democratic politician.  And the Democratic politician himself.

Introductions happened, and the local town council folks were introduced, a couple politicians at different levels, and then the senator.  And if he thought this was going to be a really friendly crowd, he was wrong.  And since we thought that, so were we.

The questions started at the immigration problem (as in, children being incarcerated and people seeking asylum being treated badly), and went from there to Social Security, health care, the farm bill (with a heavy dose of "don't mess with people who need SNAP, just help dairy farmers make a living"), and to NRA funding (he pretended to be unaware that the NRA ever donated money to him, but also refused to refrain from accepting further NRA money.  It was interesting, and plenty of people called him out quite forcefully when he BSed (about how people come to be undocumented in the US, mostly NOT by crossing the border illegally as he asserted).

The senator answered questions for over an hour, and there was ONE that seemed sympathetic, and I was surprised at that one.  (The man who identified as a Native American veteran wanted to use gambling casino tax revenues to build the wall.)

My take aways: a lot of folks came from my small city.  And we had a lot in common with the folks who came from the dairy cooperative and who seemed to come from local small communities.  We're all concerned about Social Security.  We're all concerned about children being incarcerated when their parents seek asylum or try to enter the country without documentation (or overstay visas).  We all want farmers to be able to make a living.

No one recited any slogans, and everyone listened respectfully to each other.

I was impressed that the senator seemed smart and knowledgeable, though we're very opposed ideologically.

I read somewhere that most people really do think what they're doing is right and reasonable.  (The context was about spies.)  And that seemed pretty true of this crowd.  We disagreed on some fundamental solutions to problems, and on the sorts of things we see as problems, but I got the feeling that people were reasonably well informed (and some more than that, and most more than me) and really did want to solve the problems they think are important.

And yet, look at how my state votes.  It's hard to reconcile the two: what I saw at the meeting, and the way this state votes.

***

I had coffee and a long conversation with a new colleague.  I'm sorry to say, they seem very young and not very interesting.  (Those two don't necessarily go together, of course.)  I'm feeling a little "old guard" about them, I'm afraid.  I hope they end up being wonderful, though.

***

I did more biking this week and no hiking.  There was weather, and there was not feeling well, and there was keeping busy.

So much to do, and the time is rushing by!

3 comments:

  1. Do you think that the two get reconciled by the fact that voting is inherently reductive -- no matter what you think and how complicated it all is, you have to vote for this person or that person -- whereas a town meeting at its best is a place for conversations that really wrestle with issues.

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    1. That would make sense!

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  2. Anonymous2:29 PM

    Also, people tend to vote for the candidate (or the party) that seems to want them. In this past election, Clinton and the national-level Democrats seemed to be uninterested in attracting people who were not part of any discernible identity group. That is a whole lot of people!

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