Commentary: Baird cancels town hall meetings over health care debate
By Jason Mercier
The national health care debate is setting up an interesting compare-and-contrast back home concerning the strategies of neighboring congressional Democratic Reps. Adam Smith (Tacoma) and Brian Baird (Vancouver). Smith is making himself available to constituents, whereas Baird is canceling his town hall meetings.
This comes against the backdrop of news wires abuzz with phrases such as “AstroTurf protesters” and “anti-government radicals” at town hall meetings voicing their displeasure over how the health care debate is unfolding in Washington, D.C. It seems that for some in D.C. and the media, only those Americans who don’t have strong opinions and don’t try to organize are worthy of having their voices heard.
It should not surprise elected officials that when they push controversial policies, there will be some heat back home. Assuming the policy is well thought out and the typical member of Congress understands what he is advocating, he should have no fear answering even the most hostile question.
Whether a union packs a town hall or tax protesters, these individuals are still constituents and, more important, they are Americans participating in representative government.
Although some in Congress may prefer that town hall meetings be more like an echo chamber, it appears Smith has not lost sight of the fact that all of his constituents have the right to be heard and not just those who agree with him.
Commenting in this story about Baird’s canceling his town hall meetings to avoid the “lynch-mob mentality” of those opposed to the proposed health care changes, Smith said:
“They aren’t protesters. They are constituents speaking their minds.”
Smith said that even if the protests are organized, “what’s wrong with that?”
Absolutely nothing. Kudos to Smith for not hiding from the people he represents.
Jason Mercier is the director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center. He serves on the Executive Committee of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force and is a contributing editor of the Heartland Institute’s Budget & Tax News. Mercier also serves as treasurer on the board of the Washington Coalition for Open Government and was an adviser to the 2002 Washington State Tax Structure Committee.