Our Power

On a Saturday in which the funeral of Ted Kennedy was a big TV event and torrential rains soaked the Boston area, two hundred people made their way to the Sheraton Hotel in Danvers for a 1pm Congressional Town Hall Meeting. Normally, such events are held by the congressmen who represent their districts, but in a month in which Americans have shown an inspiring level of interest in their government, some congressmen choose to hide from such engagement. Sixth Congressional District Representative John Tierney is such a "leader."
By noon, the secret service was lining the cleared runway at the airport (on Martha's Vineyard), preparing for the president’s arrival. The rain continued to pound down, creating an endless, deepening puddle on the pavement.
I've taken to calling him Former Congressman John Tierney, even though he still holds the seat. I figure that the more the new name is spoken, the easier it will be to make it stick. A congressman should represent his constituents, not hide from them. As the federal officeholder with the smallest number of constituents, a congressman is intended to be the people's voice in Washington. He is expected, constitutionally, to be a real, breathing member of the community, hearing the thoughts of his neighbors and expressing their wants in Washington. Tierney has breached that responsibility.
The first plane landed at 1:51 p.m., taxiing to the far end of the runway. As it turned around, the water under its wheels splashed up. Steam flew up from the hot brakes. Members of the White House staff kicked up water as they walked off.
In his stead, GOP Congressional Candidate Bill Hudak spoke to the people of the sixth, answering their questions on health care. His knowledge of the legislation now threatening the country is impressive, as is his ability to articulate, clearly and succinctly, its meaning. Bill showed what leadership is like. It was nice to see.
One myth that was put to rest for those in the room was the notion that such gatherings are anything less than sincere. In normal times, I would have been impressed to see a dozen people gather to discuss a thousand page proposal on a summer Saturday. Yet, voters were clearly there out of deep concern for the direction the country is taking, for the future of their own health care, and out of a desire to understand exactly what the realities of the legislation are.
The breaks from a second plane, blue and white with “United States of America” written on the side, screeched as the plane came to a halt. The smell of plane exhaust permeated the air. Members of the press, dressed mostly in black, exited and waded through the lake of a parking lot to the waiting bus.
Noteworthy is the fact that the loudest, most uniform response from the crowd came when Congressman Hudak (get used to it!) mentioned the $800 billion stimulus package, passed in just a week this year. Clearly, the emotional pitch that has been reached over health care is a piece of a sequense of events that have created a sense of government spending out of control and of president pursuing a philosophy out of sync with the intuitive sense that Americans have of what this country is supposed to be.
Thirty years ago, it was with great reluctance that this nation loaned Chrysler $1.5 billion. Today, we pour endless amounts into GM and Chrysler, apparently just to avoid responsibility for their oppressive obligations to employees. When Congress responded to the president's call for a stimulus package, Barack Obama signed off on a Democrats only pork package that violated his commitment to bipartisanship, transparency, and against pork.
The third plane touched down just before 2 p.m.  The president’s plane pulled in at the far end of the lot. The motorcade, led by an SUV from the Massachusetts state police, moved up to pick up the president. The press bus followed. Two black umbrellas were held up as the President and First Lady were escorted into an SUV. The motorcade took off at 2:05 p.m.
The bailout of Wall Street had come first, and after a time, most Americans became suspicious that the cozy linkage between the tycoons who had brought the financial system to its knees and money lining the pockets of politicians like Tom Daschle explained the structure of the legislation better than did the needs of the nation.
Senior citizens, who remember the sacrifices of World War II, know what we were fighting to protect. They know the constitution, and they understand that the politics of this president doesn't reflect the vision of the Founding Fathers. It is largely these seniors who are scared by the health care bill. Older Americans, the most important block of voters in the nation, are the ones who are fired up with sincere concern, and who have been insulted by Democrats' attempts to portray them as nuts and frauds.
A small group of people stood in front of the general store in the rain waving, some taking pictures with their cell phones. The ride to the farm took 10 minutes. State and local police were out in full force at the entrance.
Two hundred people at a Town Hall Meeting  on an August afternoon, one not even attended by their (former) congressman, does not bode well for Democrats who don't have enough respect for their constituents to listen to their concerns. Nor does it bode well for a President who must defend his plan by promising that he does not intend to put any seniors to death. They can hide, but those officials who gathered in Boston for the funeral of Ted Kennedy, and others who lack the respect for their constituents to be willing to hear their voices, will not be permitted to continue to hold our power when we next head to the polls.