By Doug Porter
As town halls in San Diego featuring Representatives Darrell Issa, Duncan Hunter and Susan Davis drew big crowds and garnered national attention, the American Civil Liberties Union rolled out the inaugural event of People Power, with more than 2,200 events in cities coast-to-coast. (See additional coverage of the ACLU campaign here.)
There were more than a dozen expressions of activism on Saturday, ranging from the raucous to the reserved in venues large and small throughout the region.
Women from all over the region at City College, supporters of Planned Parenthood in Vista, and Muslim youth at UCSD all participated in events responding to the policies and proclamations of the Trump administration. People in North Park filled out protest postcards to mail to the administration, a union local hosted a panel discussing the future of local activism, and health care advocates gathered in Mission Valley to discuss a path forward to a single payer system in California.
And the Huffington Post published what could be the ultimate cautionary tale for activists, pulling together threads about a social media disinformation campaign aimed at promoting divisions during the 2016 presidential campaign. San Diego activist John Mattes’ efforts to uncover the truth about the conspiracy news stories spread through Facebook pages seemingly favorable to candidate Bernie Sanders start off the story.
Darrell Disses Amid Hisses
Months of rallies and phone calls paid off for North County activists, including several Indivisible chapters, as Congressman Darrell Issa held back to back public forums in Oceanside.
Hundreds of people, unable to get tickets for the event, rallied outside throughout the morning. Stories about local town halls appeared nationally, including live reports on CNN and MSNBC along with coverage by the Washington Post, NBC7, Union Tribune, KPBS, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, Times of San Diego, and Escondido Grapevine.
From the Washington Post:
A protester outside the community center held a sign that seemed to sum up the attitude of many, if not most, of the more than 1,000 who attended the two sessions: “Repeal and Replace the President.”
One man wore a Russian military hat. Another wore a T-shirt that read, “Trump-Putin, ’16.” A woman held a sign: “Russia-Gate Follow the Money.” Another had a shirt signaling that she is a “nasty woman,” a jibe Trump aimed at Hillary Clinton during a presidential campaign debate.
From Courthouse News:
Inside the beachside community center, Issa was greeted by hundreds of constituents waving bright green and red “Agree” and “Disagree” signs. While the town hall was advertised as a conversation focused on the recently introduced Republican option to replace President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many constituents asked about Russian ties to the Trump administration, and whether they would be investigated.
Raffle ticket numbers were called so questioners could be chosen at random. Many audience members yelled, “Answer the question,” or, “Yes or no,” when they felt Issa failed to address an issue. Others spoke out of turn or tried to talk over him, yet the event remained mostly civil.
Questions about healthcare and immigration were asked throughout both Issa town halls. Participants left feeling their questions hadn’t been answered, or that they’d been talked down to by Congressman Issa.
The representative from the 49th demonstrated a real talent throughout both sessions at being able to deflect, defer, or deny his way out of tough questions.
Given Issa’s role as a bulldog investigator during the Obama administration, it wasn’t surprising for people to be asking what role he’d play in investigating the allegations about Russian involvement in or connections to the Trump campaign.
While the congressman gave assurances he was willing to investigate anything, the subject of Russia appeared to strike a nerve, as staffers sought to remove signs on the topic from the area.
— Encinitas Unity (@encinitasunity) March 11, 2017
From Think Progress
One constituent objected to having had a small sign that said “Investigate Russia,” confiscated by Issa’s uniformed security team, claiming their treatment of her constituted battery. Issa responded that he was going to move on to “somebody who doesn’t have a pending lawsuit… next.” Audience members booed.
From the Orange County Register:
Among those inside were veteran Democratic activist Mike Levin, who recently announced his candidacy for Issa’s seat in 2018. When Levin asked about the EPA and climate change, Issa said he does not support reducing the agency’s funding.
The EPA “is not a Republican or a Democratic organization,” Issa said. “It’s an organization that has a mandate and I will continue to support sensible aspects of that mandate and funding for it.”
Cancer-survivor Karen Abrams, of Encinitas, who attended both town halls, said Issa “gave the proper sound bites that people want to hear,” but didn’t provide much insight into how he planned to back up his claims.
— Mike Levin (@MikeLevinCA) March 12, 2017
Not everybody was happy about Levin’s appearance.
Former North Area Democratic Vice Chair Don Greene, who recently re-registered as a No Party Preference voter, believes Levin’s appearance wasn’t left to mere chance.
Issa took questions from a variety of people, on a variety of subjects, based on a randon drawing of ticket stubs. Mark Larson – a local, conservative Christian talk radio host – was the moderator and the person who was drawing the tickets from a large plastic box on stage. The odds of being selected from the crowd of 500 to be one of the ~20 speakers are fairly low.
I’m not a mathematician or statistician, but even I can see the probability of having your number drawn to ask a question is relatively low. Add into the mix the decreasing amount of tickets being drawn from, the varying actual number of total speakers, and other variables, you get a probability which is even higher. Which brings me to this question: What is the probability of you being drawn as the last speaker in a series of other speakers?
If your name is Mike Levin, the probability is really, really high.
Greene, who supports the candidacy of Democrat Doug Applegate, left the party organization based in part on his supposition that Mike Levin being pushed to marginalize his Democratic opponent, thus insuring Issa maintains his seat.
I remain skeptical, but this tidbit from Voice of San Diego correspondent Ruarri Serpa made these suspicions worth mentioning:
Issa staffer: we saw people passing numbers around. https://t.co/RPufpGheSx
— Ruarri Serpa (@RuarriS) March 11, 2017
Issa’s razor thin margin of victory in November combined with the rapidly changing demographics of the 49th congressional district leads Democrats to believe they have a real chance of flipping his seat in 2018.
Saturday’s strong showing by progressive advocates in what not long ago was a bastion of reaction certainly gives credence to this notion.
Duncan Hunter Didn’t Disappoint
More surprising was the progressive turnout for Congressman Duncan Hunter’s Ramona Town hall. Make no mistake about it, Hunter’s 50th congressional district is solidly Republican.
The Union-Tribune coverage indicated that about 1000 people showed up for the forum. The line at the door started at 5am, with people being admitted on a first-come, first served basis.
About 300 members of the public were allowed into the venue. An overflow crowd at Collier Park listened to a live stream of the event. It appeared just over half of the crowd was involved with the group, Indivisible, opposing President Donald Trump and his policies on immigration, health care, and other issues, while the rest voiced their support for the congressman.
There were no busloads of outsiders as some had predicted, and Lt. Jerry Hartman with the sheriff’s Ramona station said the group was peaceful and there were no physical confrontations.
Constituents from Ramona, Fallbrook, Escondido, El Cajon and Santee were among those attending.
Hunter isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, and it showed throughout the questioning. Asked about his tens of thousands of dollars in campaign finance miscues, he blamed everybody but himself.
I guess it was Nancy Pelosi’s fault that monies were spent on a trip to Disneyland. And it certainly must be the Union-Tribune’s (now owned by the evil Los Angeles Times) fault that monies were spent flying the family’s pet rabbit coast-to-coast.
The East County Republican told the crowd it was originally his intention to mock them with Queen’s “We Are the Champions” anytime booing took place, as a way of reminding them who’d won the election.
“They [his handlers]” told him not to, but that didn’t stop him from randomly blurting out an off-key verse rather than respond to a question.
I simply loved the Escondido Grapevine’s reporting on the Ramona town hall:
No, you haven’t fallen down Alice in Wonderland’s Rabbit Hole. You have entered the alternative, fact-free universe that was Rep. Duncan Duane Hunter (R-50th District) during an often-contentious, sometimes bewildering and immensely entertaining 75-minute town hall at Ramona MainStage Saturday.
Of course, in Hunter’s alternative universe, he claimed it was 1 1/2 hours, but that’s a minor detail when so much went so awry.
In retrospect, Hunter maybe was served best by ducking town halls as he had for the past six months. As soon as he went unscripted, it became clear that he was living in a different universe from we mere mortals.
Chadwick, a wildlife artist with a passion for resource conservation, sat in the front row with her new campaign manager in tow — Gary Gartner, who handed out large pill bottles with jelly beans (some including juice-flavored ones with no high-fructose corn syrup, he noted).
Gartner, the public face of ousted county Supervisor Dave Roberts in his 2015 office-politics drama, told Times of San Diego that despite his huge GOP registration advantage, Hunter has been “riding on his father’s coattails name. And now with his stupidity, his arrogance and his corruption, he’s very vulnerable.”
Chadwick, 70, has a “good chance,” he said, “because she’s a nurse. People trust nurses. They know they’re caring people” and because she’s the only woman running.
Susan Davis Draws a Crowd
The day wasn’t all about Republicans. Democratic Congresswoman Susan Davis drew more than 1200 people for a public forum at San Diego State University.
From CBS 8:
Questions posed to Rep. Davis throughout the day related to funding Planned Parenthood, healthcare reform, the Environmental Protection Agency, illegal immigration, refugees entering the United States, national security and President Trump’s tweets and fitness to hold office, among other topics.
The Davis meeting was considerably more subdued at SDSU. During her opening remarks, she said Americans and elected officials in Washington seemed to be more focused on Trump and not the issues.
“We’ve been so busy defending against terrible executive orders and worrying about the latest, dangerous, 3 a.m. tweet, that we tend to lose focus, really, on the most important issues in front of us, which continue to be jobs and our economy,” Davis said. “I think that the president has muddled the waters to distract us from the fact that he’s not helping us address the challenges that we face and frankly, I find that frightening.”
The 53rd congressional district representative wasn’t let off the hook simply because she was a Democrat, as this Facebook video from Suzanne Morse indicates.
There were other town halls around the country yesterday, and there is planning underway for more next month.
From Common Dreams:
As they did during last month’s Congressional recess, progressives plan to hold lawmakers’ feet to the fire during the upcoming April break—and to increase the pressure on elected officials between now and then.
“The reality of the healthcare repeal bill will supercharge the resistance,” Ben Wikler, MoveOn.org’s Washington director, told The Hill. “This is really going to be a full court press.”
“We’re starting to gear up to keep the members of Congress’ phones ringing off the hook continuously until they commit or follow through on their commitment to vote against this bill,” he added…
…Meanwhile, Indivisible project board member Sarah Dohl told The Hill: “We’ll keep the heat on as we see further committee action, but we’re really focusing on the upcoming two week recess that starts April 8.” She pointed to Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) vocal opposition to the GOP’s American Healthcare Act (AHCA) as evidence that town hall resistance is working.
— Jonathan Allen (@jonallendc) March 13, 2017
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