This probably isn’t the ideal way for congressmen to handle their constituents:
Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), at a town hall meeting about a highway project in his district on Friday, accused audience members who asked about healthcare reform during a question-and-answer session of being outsiders who “hijacked” his meeting.
“I’m listening to my constituents. These are people who live in the 13th congressional district, who vote in this district,” he said. “That’s who I’ve got to respond to.”
In fact, Scott directed his remark at Dr. Brian Hill, who is a resident of the 13th district. Hill asked why Scott is “voting for a healthcare plan that is shown not to work in Massachusetts.”
“Those of you here who have taken, and came, and hijacked this event that we’re dealing with here,” Scott said. “This is not a healthcare event. You made the choice to come here!”
Scott’s outburst came during the meeting’s question and answer session in which constituents were allowed to ask questions on any topic. A local NBC affiliate in Atlanta captured video of the meeting. Hill later stressed to the network that he’s not even a Republican.
At one point, Scott stood up and pointed, shouting, “You want a meeting with me on healthcare? I’ll give it to you!”
One has the sense that lawmakers are just stunned that ordinary citizens would have the temerity to speak up. Spending most of their time with staffers, lobbyists, and fellow legislators (i.e., sheltered from real people) and soaking up the talking points from their leadership, they simply never encounter people who disagree so bluntly and so loudly with them. Until now, the average town hall was a lightly attended snooze-fest where a few seniors came to complain about late checks and a question or two came up about a local pork-barrel project.
But then citizens got the idea that they could come out—in droves—and give their representatives a piece of their mind. It is all quite a culture shock for the lawmakers, who seem blissfully unaware that somewhere in just about every crowd there is someone with a video camera or a cell phone recording how they respond to criticism. And so far, it’s not a pretty sight.