(Emily Larsen, Liberty Headlines) While some GOP congressmen have scheduled virtual town halls to hear the concerns of constituents, or no town halls at all, Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador calmly faced over 600 citizens earlier this week who came to be heard.
From Trump to healthcare to the weeds of tech policy, Labrador answered questions from an often hostile crowd – for over three hours.
Grassroots activists from Idaho Indivisible and other progressive groups showed up with red and green pieces of paper to signify “agree” and “disagree.” With those protesters cheering and waving their signs, the atmosphere was more like a sports game than a town hall.
Reading a question off her phone, one woman questioned why Labrador publicly opposed paid maternal leave, suggesting it seemed contradictory to his pro-life stance.
“You seem very concerned about the wellbeing of children before they’re born,” she started, before having to pause for the cheers of the progressive attendees, their green pieces of paper raised. “But I wonder what happens to that compassion going forward in terms of the positive change you could make in terms of healthcare and education and parental leave.”
Labrador responded calmly, despite the din of the crowd.
“I think we have a responsibility to each other as a society. But the difference that you and I have is that some people think that should be the burden of the government. I think that should be the burden of the local communities,” Labrador said.
“I think we need to stop relying so much on the government and start relying more on each other,” he said.
Emotions ran high for many attendees who were devastated by President Trump’s election.
“The day after the election, I had to explain to my stepson that we elected a monster. Where were you?” asked a teary-eyed constituent. “Where were you, and what do you have to say to my eleven-year old and six-year-old stepsons about how you can do such horrible things, and still become the highest elected office in the country?”
The hostile environments at town halls are causing some Republican congressmen to hold tele-townhalls or virtual town halls on Facebook Live. After heated confrontations, the Utah GOP recommended that lawmakers not hold large public town halls if they cannot provide adequate security. One lawmaker sneaked out a back door to avoid protesters. Many members of Congress aren’t holding town halls at all.
“Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock skipped two ‘mobile office hours’ sessions she had scheduled in late January, as backlash against Trump and the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare began to build,” CNN reported.
But Rep. Labrador wasn’t afraid of dissent.
“I love interacting with people. I always think it’s a great thing,” he told the Idaho Statesman. “Towards the end I got really tired, I have to admit.”
The Republican congressmen who do schedule public town hall meetings provide a forum not only for their constituents, but in some cases, the whole state.
“I live in Boise, but I am in Mr. Simpson’s district,” one town hall attendee told the Statesman. “Raul Labrador is the only congressman of ours who has scheduled a town hall, so I have to give him credit for that. It’s a chance for us to have our voices heard.”
The Statesman’s editorial page says that even those who disagree with Rep. Labrador should respect his willingness to engage. Because of his consistent policy positions, there’s less reason for him to fear the angry crowds.
“There’s no getting caught up in explaining a contradiction tomorrow if you repeat what you said today. He doesn’t much care if you fancy him an ideologue, boo him or brand him with the latest conspiratorial subtitle,” said the editorial.
Rep. Labrador has another town hall scheduled during the congressional recess on Monday, April 24th.