I believe Andy Slavitt, former Acting Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, was the first to offer to hold town halls in areas where the GOP feared to tread (or anywhere else, for that matter). Sean Maloney (D-NY) has taken that idea one giant step beyond.
On Monday evening, about 500 residents of New York’s 19th Congressional District gathered at a wedding venue near the Hudson River to ask a local congressman about the American Health Care Act. But the congressman holding the town hall wasn’t the area’s newly elected representative, Republican John Faso, who had voted for the bill. Instead, they heard from Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney, who represents a neighboring district.
Members of Congress don’t often invade each other’s turf without an invitation—and Faso had most certainly not invited his colleague—but Maloney told the attendees he hoped to start a trend. “Let’s just imagine for a minute if in every district in this country where a member of Congress voted for this terrible health care bill [and] they won’t hold a town hall meeting, what if somebody else adopted that district?” he said. “Might be a Democrat! And [then] went in and did what we’re doing doing tonight. What do you think? We can adopt a district anywhere.”
It was a gloves-off affair from there. “He may be upset that I’m in his district, but I will just point out that he is not,” Maloney joked, noting that Faso was at a fundraiser in Albany. “I mean, they say nature abhors a vacuum, right?” Before Maloney began taking questions, he asked attendees to take out their phones and send a mass of tweets to Faso about the town hall. Maloney even brought an empty chair—just in case, he said, Faso decided to show up after all.
“This guy should not be on some milk carton—he’s your congressman,” Maloney said. “He should be here.”
Of course, Maloney can’t really steal Frightened Faso’s constituents. All he can do is show up when Faso won’t, answer their questions, dunk on Faso a few times, be the politician who answered their questions when Faso wouldn’t, and – this is something I don’t think elected Republicans could do if they tried – show empathy and kindness to people who are frightened. And dunk on Faso a few more times.
If Faso is intelligent – it isn’t completely impossible – he should be wondering how people will react when the nice person who talked to them about health care shows up with a Democratic challenger who is gunning for his seat.
Even better, our Democrats is learning.
Maloney’s stunt may indeed mark the beginning of a trend. On Tuesday evening, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) followed suit, appearing at a Tucson high school for a “Rally to Stop Trumpcare” in a district represented by one of its supporters, Republican Martha McSally. Unlike Maloney’s event, which he attended as part of his official duties, Gallego’s town hall was sponsored by the Arizona Democratic Party and more closely resembled a campaign function. McSally, who was not seriously opposed in 2016, is one of 14 Republican “yes” votes in districts won by Hillary Clinton.
Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan has planned a town hall in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s district.
*Eating popcorn gif*
It’s hard to imagine how Repubs might effectively counter this move. They don’t want to attend town halls in their own districts. They sure as hell don’t want Democrats attending town halls on their behalf. I guess they could hire actors, since that seems to work for the Trumpenfuher.
In the meantime, inviting a Democratic member of Congress to a town hall gives Democratic voters in red districts a way to protest and troll their Congressperson at the same time. Slavitt would be happy to come as well.