It took me some time to get my thoughts in order because I wanted to make sure that I express my concerns correctly and to avoid the perception that this is a kneejerk reaction to Dave Brat’s outrageous behavior. This is not news, and certainly, it is not “fake” news; I attended the Town Hall Meeting in Blackstone VA on February 22, 2017, and what was reported by Patrick Wilson of the Richmond Times-Dispatch is basically correct.
I heard those comments; I took my own notes that coincide and fill in between what was reported.
So, why is he an abuser? Let me count the ways.
Dave Brat abused his constituents by holding a Town Hall Meeting at the edges of his gerrymandered 7th District, in Blackstone. The intent for this venue was not to accommodate the citizens, because some had to drive about 2 hours to get there; rather, it was in the hope that he would get a favorable response from what he likely considered his base supporters, and to avoid resistance to his positions and platforms. With the little disregard that he showed, by that act, it is obvious that he did not care about any inconvenience that he caused, but only how he would be perceived. He would have been perceived much better if he did try to accommodate a larger part of his constituency and treat them better than he did.
Dave Brat abused his constituents by wasting their time. It was a full 15 minutes – I timed it – before he finally listened to the crowd’s chants to get him to answer the questions, which was the expected purpose for the Town Hall Meeting. One of his real purposes was to convince the audience of his bona fides, which was completely unnecessary; that same irrelevant information is available on his website. You can imagine a Master of Ceremonies for a radio or TV program introducing Brat in this same way that he introduced himself; that program would be taken off the air quickly.
His other explicit purpose was to hawk his book; which had nothing to do with the Town Hall Meeting. He made too many references to his book as feeble answers to the questions that were asked. After wasting that 15 minutes of his constituents’ time, he offered another 15 minutes at the end to compensate, which was another 15 wasted minutes. At that time of night, when the Town Hall Meeting was supposed to end at 8:00 PM, that additional 15 minutes was inconsiderate to those constituents who took the time to drive 2 hours for this event. But, Brat was just being consistently inconsiderate and abusive of his constituents.
Dave Brat abused his constituents by setting up the Question and Answer process to the disadvantage of those who attended and wanted answers to difficult political questions. He did this by avoiding feedback to his answers. His answers were flippant, non-responsive, and impertinent. He did not have the Town Hall Meeting to listen to the people; he wanted the people to listen to him. And, the people he wanted listening were his base supporters. With feedback, he would have been able to verify if his answers were valid, satisfactory, or relevant to the rest of his constituency; he did not care. He prevented any meaningful discussion.
Dave Brat abused his constituents by intentionally giving answers to questions that had little or no substance. That may have been acceptable for his base; but when citizens who are concerned about the effect of legislation on their lives, their finances, their health, and their civil liberties received his responses, they have every reason to be outraged. Following are some paraphrased examples of those responses.
- The future of Social Security was brought up as a question; he had as a response that Social Security should be privatized. The word “privatize” sounds good to his base, but they don’t understand what it means. Privatization means that the citizens will be funding their retirement through financial institutions that will be free to risk the money of the public in the form of corporate gambling, without consequences. The Executive Orders to weaken the fiduciary provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act will reduce those consequences to corporations and transfer the burden to the taxpayers. Fueling the “free enterprise” system, but leaving out the consumers, is the method Brat, and the rest of the GOP adhere to. The banal adage – what’s good for business, is good for America – doesn’t work well in the “trickle-down” myth of economics. With his claim of being knowledgeable in economics, you would think he could, and would, find an honest way to save the citizens of this country from corporate pillaging. Not Dave Brat. He listens well to his contributors, but not his constituents.
- Reduced funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was raised as a concern. Brat managed to bring up his time at the World Bank – but not about any details of his work there – as a response to environmental concerns. He was trying to equate economic growth with polluting the environment, and using the World Bank as an authority for that. In his so-called response, he asked, “Do you want to be poor or do you want to be rich?” This kind of twisted option is an insult to citizens because neither of these are a reasonable option. Of course, almost everyone wants to be rich and no one I can think of will say they want to be poor. So what is the real option? The real option is an illusion. If you don’t mind being poor, you’ll be subjected to environmental insults – the most recent I can think of is the lead pollution disaster in Flint MI. That happened because of Republican cost-cutting measures.
- The citizens of Flint MI never got the opportunity to be rich. No other normal citizens will get the opportunity to be rich under his lack of environmental integrity. What about the rich? No problem. All they have to do is find a suitable location that’s pollution free. If someone wants to pollute their environment, they have the wealth to simply say “Go away” and it happens. Where is the same advantage for the poor? How is he going to help? He’s not going to help. The simple reason is that the poor are ready-made victims and he’s ready to help exploit them.
- Repealing the Affordable Care Act is one of his stated priorities, but he was unable, or unwilling, to provide any details for its replacement. After noticing the crowd’s opposition to that stand, he conveniently hid behind his position on the budget committee, where he’s allegedly waiting to see what kind of bill is written. If you have to wait for someone else, you don’t have to give an answer of your own to a crowd that wants real answers. In general, Brat wants to give the public “options” for healthcare. The options are very simple: you either pay exorbitant rates for healthcare or you can die. And there you have your “freedom of choice” according to Brat. Who could ask for anything more? The United States spends the largest amount of money, per capita, on healthcare; yet, it doesn’t rank first in longevity. It does rank first in the number of bankruptcies resulting from exorbitant amounts for healthcare. If you take a close look, there are no other countries where the citizens go bankrupt just to stay alive. “Only in America.”
- He has a singularly unique solution to better education. If you think that you live in a district where the school system is inadequate, “change your zip code.” That’s right. That’s it. Move. How many people really have that opportunity? How many people really have the resources to move to a district with a better school system and resources? If you’re someone who has reasonable financial resources, and you’re young enough, you will be looking for a better school district to give your children the best advantage; yet, you still may not be able to do that because of job limitations. But, with all others in the lower economic status trying to get an education, how are you going to crowd all of them into elegant neighborhoods? The affordable housing won’t be there. Part of the changing zip code solution will likely include tax credits and vouchers – that’s if you have enough money to move – while the budgets for public schools are slashed. The money for those tax credits has to come from somewhere; it might as well be from those poor constituents who can’t change their zip codes. After all, they won’t be getting an education anyway. Those who are “fortunate” enough to be in the public school system for the short time that it’s going to be funded, will be subjected to Brat’s support of the Betsy DeVoss philosophy on education.
Dave Brat abused his constituents by intentionally staying uninformed about issues and the concerns of the public throughout his term. His script is written by his contributors, not the constituent voters. He may say that he was elected by a majority vote and considers that majority as his constituents while conveniently ignoring all others.
At the Town Hall Meeting he did his best to ignore “all others” but there may be more of them than he realized and expected. If he, so willingly, chooses to stay uninformed – that is, not even listening to those who voted for him – then, someone else who has the capability and ability to listen and stay informed, should replace him in office. The sooner, the better.