Being a blue dot in a red state has never felt more dangerous to me than now. But being an active, visible blue dot in a red state has never felt more necessary to me right now. Because we are the one trying to hold Republicans accountable where it hurts them most—in their home districts.
Over the last week, Republicans representing red states and/or red districts have been getting an earful from constituents—or they do if they will show up.
Many of these have focused on the ACA, as Gus Bilirakis learned in Florida the other night:
There was John Ford, 66, who was once denied coverage for his hip because he had previously had the joint replaced. And Christine Mendonca, 34, who worried that without Obamacare, she could no longer afford to get pregnant.
Evan Thornton, 21, fought back tears describing the congenital heart condition that could cut his life short. The Affordable Care Act allowed him to have coverage under his parents' plan into his 20s, he said.
"I'm an independent who voted for you," he told Bilirakis. "Please don't take my life away. Please don't let me die."
Only a handful supported efforts by congressional Republicans to repeal and replace the health law — and one was a Bilirakis employee, case work director Kristen Sellas.
Last night, Congresswoman Diane Black of Tennessee heard more than she wanted to, including an impassioned plea from a woman making arguments for the ACA stemming from her Christian faith and impoverished childhood in Appalachia:
At a town hall meeting featuring Rep. Diane Black (R – TN) on Thursday evening, a Christian woman stood up and cited her religion as the reason that she didn’t want to see Obamacare repealed.
“As a Christian, my whole philosophy in life is pull up the unfortunate,” she said. “So the individual mandate, that’s what it does: The healthy people pull up the sick. If we take those people, and we put them in high-risk insurance pools, they’re costlier and there’s less coverage… So we are in effect punishing our sickest people.”
She then went on to ask Black to expand Medicaid so that “everybody [will] have insurance.”
Not all of the crowds are focused solely on the ACA. In Michigan, Justin Amash faced a packed town hall in no mood for excuses about Betsy DeVos, among other things:
Amash's responses to questions were often met by attempts from the audience to shout him down.
When an education professional stood up to say she and many of her colleagues are unhappy with Betsy DeVos' confirmation as secretary of education, Amash's support of the new cabinet member was less than popular.
"She has been active on education issues for a long time," Amash said. "It's good to have diversity of thought, and I think she'll do a good job reaching out to people on both sides."
"Ridiculous," a voice yelled from the back.
In Utah, Jason Cheffetz found himself faced by a crowd angry that he doesn’t do his job:
Constituents jeered Chaffetz, who is chairman of the House Oversight Committee, over what they saw as his failure to examine potential conflicts of interests between Trump's private businesses and executive role.Cheffetz left the event early.
Videos from the event posted on social media showed the crowd erupting into chants of "do your job," in response to that answer. Chaffertz repeatedly pleaded "hold on," and "give me a second" as he was drowned out by shouting.
Hundreds of people stood outside the auditorium holding signs and chanting "vote him out," while one woman was arrested.
GOP leaders are fretting that they need more security. Some, like Barbara Comstock of Virginia, are skipping out on public events altogether. In Greensboro, GA, this morning, aides for Congressman Jody Hice were unprepared for the numbers of constitutents who showed up for an event billed as co-hosted by Hice and georgia’s two Senators, David Persue and Johnny Isakson. None of the elected representatives showed up, and they missed an earful:
About a half-dozen congressional aides briefly addressed the crowd, telling them the event was not a town hall and they would take no questions from the floor. They left after crowd members chanted “shame, shame, shame.”
A few minutes later, Hice aide Josh Findlay returned to listen to each of the speakers and jot down notes about their concerns. More than a dozen people spoke, sounding off on their fears about the fate of the Affordable Care Act, Trump’s immigration order and his education policies.
“Despite the phone calls, the voicemails, the Facebook messages, the emails – Johnny Isakson still approved (Education Secretary) Betsy DeVos,” said Michelle Golden, a Gwinnett educator wearing a bright-green shirt declaring “All the Mamas are Mad.”
Golden added: “When is he going to start doing his job and listen to the people?”
Politico has a good profile today of the Indivisible movement, which is driving many of these protests. (I note that there are now 6,200 affiliated chapters across the country.) I note also, with some grim hilarity, that the GOP are busy claiming that these protests are “astro-turf,” “paid protestors,” “outside agitators,” and all the other bullshit names they have used for 50 years to discredit opposition. Projection much? Of course, the problem with that is when reality catches up with them. For example:
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) sounded a similar note in an interview. “I think it’s going to be a demonstration a week until they run out of funding,” he said, predicting that “they will incrementally die off.”
Of course, those of us on the ground know that we’re not getting outside dollars, gnomish gold, SOROSBUXXX or whatever other imaginary funding that King fantasizes we are. We’re actually mad as hell, we're pooling our resources, and we’re not going away any time soon.
Welcome to the new red state reality, Republicans. It's a little thing we like to call #RESISTANCE.
Do you know of more acts of Red State (or Red District) resistance? If so, feel free to share in comments below.