Sheboygan – No one can ever say Representative Glenn Grothman (R-Glenbeulah) isn’t willing to face a tough crowd. The second-term Congressman from Wisconsin’s Sixth Congressional did just that on Monday morning before an overflow crowd of nearly 200 during an hour-long town hall meeting at Sheboygan’s Mead Public Library.
— Phillip Bock (@bockling) April 10, 2017
The event was the first of several town halls Grothman will hold across his rural, east central Wisconsin district over the next two days. For the one in Sheboygan, what greeted the congressman was a largely liberal leaning crowd; many who seemed to have no idea what he even looked like.
One sign held by an elderly woman gave indication to what many in attendence were feeling; as interruptions, heckles, and shouts rang out from the crowd. It read: “I’m not here to listen to you. I’m here to yell.” That fact became clear when shouts of “What?!” and “You’ve got to be kidding me?” rang out after Grothman stated he’d be beginning the town hall with a legislative update. Never has such a simple explanation of what an elected official was doing in Washington, D.C. become such a tension-filled moment as members of the crowded wasted little time trying to shout down the congressman.
What followed after that was nearly a replay of what’s been happening at Republican town halls across the country. People with homemade “Agree / Disagree” signs ready to go in regards to anything said by the congressman. This was followed by a litany of questions about the politics and policies (real or perceived) within the American Health Care Act; the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. This was quickly followed by calls to “Fix It” rather than “Repeal it” and countless call for a “Medicare for All” single-payer health care system.
However; the biggest applause lines were saved not for policy debates, but for outright open calls of investigation against President Donald Trump. Over the course of the hour-long town hall, Grothman was asked a number of what many could describe as outright conspiracy theories. These ranged from whether he’d support legislation subpoenaing the president’s tax returns, if he believed the White House were puppets of Russian premier Vladimir Putin, what was being done to ensure ‘another American election wasn’t stolen by Russian hackers,’ and whether or not he’d back an “independent investigation” into Trump’s ties to Russia.
When asked about the similarities between this town hall and others across the country, many attendants became dodgy about where they heard about the event? Was it an email or a Facebook post? No one would say when pressed for an answer. But it was incredibly hard for any objective observer to not notice some level of political organizing going on; be it in the heavy level of camera phones, demands for a “Yes / No” answer to questions far too complicated to warrant such a response, and so on.
All items which could be found on a number of websites offering step-by-step instructions on how to ambush town halls…
Assign someone in the group to use their smart phone or video camera to record other advocates asking questions and the MOC’s [Member of Congress’s] response. While written transcripts are nice, unfavorable exchanges caught on video can be devastating for MoCs. These clips can be shared through social media and picked up by local and national media. Please familiarize yourself with your state and local laws that govern recording, along with any applicable Senate or House rules, prior to recording. These laws and rules vary substantially from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
BE PREPARED TO INTERRUPT AND INSIST ON YOUR RIGHT TO BE HEARD.
Since you won’t get the mic at an event like this, you have to attract attention to yourself and your message. Agree beforehand with your group on a simple message focused on a current or upcoming issue. Coordinate with each other to chant this message during any public remarks that your MoC makes. This can be difficult and a bit uncomfortable. But it sends a powerful message to your MoC that they won’t be able to get press for other events until they address your concerns.
Whatever the case, it is clear that many liberal attendees in Grothman’s district were not done for the day. As the event wrapped up and attendees began filing out, one man jumped on his chair to urge people to follow him to the nearby Blue Harbor Resort, so they could protest Wisconsin’s senior Senator Ron Johnson as he was set to shortly begin speaking to local chamber of commerce.
In the end, neither Grothman or the crowd seemed to have changed much in regard to each other’s opinions on the issues of the day. Whether similar crowds meet the congressman during the rest of his Easter Recess remain to be seen.