Progressive activists descending on the district offices of local Republican members of Congress have displayed a stunning lack of understanding about how the government works and the individual members they have targeted with demands for face-to-face meetings.
An outgrowth of the George Soros-bankrolled MoveOn.org, which previously organized “grass-roots” visits to local congressional offices to lobby for the Affordable Care Act when President Obama was still in office, the new incarnation goes by Indivisible and the hashtags #Resist and #ResistTrump.
Another difference this go-round is that less than two weeks since the inauguration of Donald Trump, the number of supporters showing up at Orange County congressional offices is larger than had been the case when you could count on one hand how many were there for the gatherings during the Obama administration. The rise in participation since the Obama reign could be due to lingering, organized animosity from Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters.
Respective Indivisible groups, which identify themselves by the congressional district number they are in and vow to show up at targeted offices every Tuesday until they get a town hall, reported Jan. 31 crowds of 50 people at the office of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach), 60 at Ed Royce’s (R-Brea) and 100 at Mimi Walters’ (R-Irvine).
One thing some these latter-day demonstrators have shared on social media and in messages to the Weekly is utter contempt over Royce, Walters and Rohrabacher failing to come out of their local offices to hear their demands for town halls on issues ranging from the dismantling of Obamacare to travel restrictions placed on people from seven Muslim countries. In this video, activists can be heard chanting, “Where is Mimi?” over and over again:
The answer to the chant: “Washington, D.C.” The House is currently in session, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) recently announced there will be more legislative days in D.C. during the beginning of this year, although periods of time off so members can address local district issues are included on his schedule. Translation: At least in the near-term, there will be few opportunities to hold these mythical Indivisible town halls.
To be fair, in-the-know demonstrators did realize going in that they would not be dealing with local reps but congressional district staffers, who mostly handle non-political constituent issues. However, in the view of some activists, staffers have made political calculations to block the flow of their messages to their local members of Congress.
“At least 50 constituents of Dana Rohrabacher went to speak with him today and they didn’t answer the door,” Indivisible OC 48 posted on Tuesday. “The police were already in his office. We had to leave voicemails on his intercom system.”
Signatures by more than 50 people request an in-person town hall were left in front of Rohrabacher’s locked front door, according to Indivisible OC 48’s Bethany Webb.
“Constituents assembled at the congressman’s office in groups of four to request an in-person town hall to be held during the week of the Congressional District Break, Feb 20-24,” reported Cynthia King of IndivisibleCA District 39 (Royce) on Tuesday. “The participants were only able to speak to the receptionist. No other member of Representative Ed Royce’s staff was made available to respond to the concerned citizens’ request.”
The report was mixed in Irvine. One wag says 15 demonstrators were let into Walters’ office to speak with staffers, adding, “They successfully made their voices heard and politely demanded an audience with their elected official.” But Mission Viejo’s Deborah L. Skurnik? of Canyon Democrats claims, “[W]e knocked and knocked on her door and not ONE staff member answered. As of 8:30 AM PST [Wednesday], Rep. Walters still has NO plan to have a town hall meeting in Orange County. She still does NOT have a position of support or opposition to … Ban on Muslims! Oh, Mimi you CANNOT avoid us forever.”
As of right now, only a handful of Republican lawmakers nationwide have held or are planning to host in-person town hall meetings open to all. They are defying strict instructions from the GOP leadership to avoid possibly generating embarrassing YouTube moments ala the original Obamacare backlash of the summer of ’09.
The self-imposed blackout has obviously spread to social media, as King blasts Royce for blocking his constituents and removing comments voicing concerns on his online pages. (Rohrabacher has done the same to at least two OC Weeklings.)
While it would be fair to label our favorite Huntington Beach chicken hawk a pussy—but not the Trump grabby kind—for avoiding a face to face with foes, The Mouth That Rohrabachered has been unable to contain himself on his own Twitter page, which can be quite entertaining. Witness this recent exchange that came during a discussion started by someone who had joined activists a couple weeks earlier at his district office:
Elsewhere on his Twitter, Rohrabacher accuses demonstrators of being outsiders as he pounds with his meaty fingers, “guess U LA folks just don’t think the way we do in OC.” That may not be a cop out: The Weekly has heard from multiple demonstrators who obviously have no idea of the congressman’s many, many, many transgressions and wacky positions that we have diligently and repeatedly exposed for 22 years. Some even suggested that they appoint someone from Indivisible to run against Rohrabacher. Knock yourselves out, kids: He’s been knocking out challengers to his House seat, usually with landslides, since 1988.
Despite the higher recent turnouts at his Surf City office, the demonstrators have failed to derail the Rohrabacher agenda: piggybacking off of Trump’s recent executive order regarding the Muslim travel ban, our Surfin’ Congressman has sponsored bills to add additional requirements for lengthy procedures prior to the admission of Iraqi or Syrian refugee immigrants to the United States and speed up the admission of Iraqi or Syrian refugee immigrants to the United States, but only if the immigrants are Christian.
The legislation flies in the face of Indivisible Orange County’s stated goal “to stop the policies of Trump and his party,” while Indivisible Huntington Beach “is dedicated to promoting ideas that will grow a society that understands and believes in environmental health, freedom from persecution for LGBT families & friends, animal protection and women’s rights advocates, and tolerance for religious beliefs and ethnicities.”
Demonstrators are apparently getting their marching orders from “Indivisible: A Practice Guide to Resisting the Trump Agenda,” which was written by Democratic congressional staffers for Indivisible groups around the nation. From MoveOn.org: “These small groups are independently devising and carrying out various confrontations of local members of Congress. They have many substantive demands, but together are making one demand: Trumpism is an unpopular minority position. Represent the rest of us.”
But that guide also endorses publicly praising members of Congress doing the right thing. So why has nothing yet been publicized by IndivisibleCA District 39 about this Royce tweet?
By the way, if you’d like to join in the fun, three Orange County Indivisible groups are set to meet in Huntington Beach (mostly likely at SeaCliff Community Center) from 3-4:30 p.m. Saturday, when plans will be made for subsequent visits to local congressional district offices.
Tuesday at 1 p.m., demonstrators plan to be back at Rohrabacher’s Huntington Beach office “with hopefully double the amount of people and many more signatures,” according to Indivisible OC 48’s Webb.
The paper chase continues …
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.