On Thursday last week Rep. Kevin Cramer accepted a town hall invitation from a local chapter of the national left wing group Indivisible which, per their website, was formed to “resist” the policy agenda of President Donald Trump.
The event got a little shouty, and in an interview Friday Cramer described the event to me in a radio interview as a “scheme” intended to provoke a “YouTube moment” of the Congressman saying or doing something stupid.
I think the Congressman is right, and as evidence consider what has been revealed about an Indivisible town hall targeting Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana:
Leaked audio from an anti-Trump protest group meeting reveals activists with anti-Trump group Indivisible plotting how to best manufacture a hostile environment at a town hall with Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana on Friday.
The audio, obtained by local radio station KPEL, reveals a coordinated effort to create the public impression that Cassidy’s support for Trump is unpopular with his constituents. The activists, who describe themselves as liberals in the audio, can be heard strategizing how to best turn a local town hall into a political victory.
The activists split up into an “inside team” — tasked with occupying “as many seats as we can” and an “outside team,” whose job was to “give [the media] the coverage they want” before joining the others inside. Activists were instructed to dress like conservatives and leave at home “any signifier that you’re a liberal” in order to blend in with constituents.
“It was performance art masquerading as civic involvement,” I wrote of Indivisible’s event with Cramer last week. “A sort of kabuki theater organized by professional activists and staged for the cameras.”
I’m not sure that’s disputable now.
I think members of Congress holding open-forum town halls are great. I’ve long praised Cramer for his efforts in that regard, and I’ve been consistently critical of Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp for largely avoiding such events. Elected leaders should be willing, on a regular basis, to shed the buffers they have between themselves and the public and engage.
But it’s a shame that a partisan left wing group like Indivisible would pervert the intent of such events, turning from a satisfying sort of civic engagement to a stage managed political spectacle.