Sunday, August 9, 2009

I Attended Rick Larsen's Town Hall on Saturday

I attended Rick Larsen's Town Hall meeting on health insurance reform (HR 3200) in Mt. Vernon on Saturday. The place was packed, with standing room only, and overflow into the courtyard outside. I found a seat in the third row inside the meeting room (I arrived about two hours early). I had prepared a statement and question that I had hoped to deliver. Congressman Larsen never called on me, so I didn't get to speak up. However, several other people said what I would have said (or words to that effect).

Being inside, I didn't wave my sign, because it would block other people's view. I think there was about a 30%/70% split pro/con. There were people from all sides, and the applause lines were all over the map, but I think the ones that got the most applause and cheers (which we were asked not to do) were the ones involving less government intervention. Congressman Larsen appeared to be unbiased and open to all views, but as with Cap & Trade, I think he's just waiting until the implementation details favor his district, and then he'll vote for it. I can't fault him for wanting to favor his district, but sometimes principle should win out over favors.

We spent most of the time quibbling over implementation details, and not about whether a government solution is fundamentally flawed. Toward the end of the meeting, one man did raise that question to great applause, but little impact on the congressman. Larsen feigned agreement in principle (what else could he do?) but I don't think he was about to change his mind. At one point, the congressman went on at some length about his commitment to, and love for the Constitution, but honestly, I didn't understand what he was talking about. It was as if we were both thinking of different documents.

One poignant moment was when an 11-year old girl asked Larsen what he was going to do about deficit spending, because she didn't want to be left with the bill for our mistakes (I can't remember her exact words, but they were very challenging). I don't think he was expecting that question, and he danced around the issue, justifying the deficit and the stimulus package without addressing how we would deal with the deficit. I guess it will be our legacy to our children, just as the New Deal was our grandparents' legacy to us, and the Great Society was our parents' legacy to us. Thanks a heap.

I have to give the congressman credit, though. The meeting was scheduled for an hour, and he met with us for two and a half hours. With all the media coverage about angry mobs, he might have been apprehensive, but there was no need. There were reporters and cameras from at least one major Seattle television station. I think they were anticipating a bloodbath. None was forthcoming. We weren't an angry mob. There was some heckling and booing (from various quarters), but little or no shouting down or gross incivility within my view. I did receive email from attendees who were outside holding signs opposing the health insurance reform bill, and they said that they were heckled and intimidated. There was one bigoted redneck inside, whom I'm sure reinforced the stereotype of all conservatives as bigoted rednecks. I didn't appreciate him, even though I agreed with some of his points -- his delivery was profoundly offensive and antagonistic.

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