A Summer Town Hall: A Postscript

Back in August, I posted a note about a town hall meeting conducted earlier in that month in a central Wisconsin park by a Republican Congressman.  I observed in the piece:

“There was appreciable attendee support for the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill, particularly as regards expanded broadband access.  The Congressman indicated that he generally supported the bill (since then, Mr. Trump has expressed his opposition to the bill; it would be instructive to learn whether the Congressman has changed his position).”

Devoting greater space to broadband wasn’t warranted in the context of the post, but there was actually a meaningful discussion during the town hall about the area’s need for broadband.  One constituent identifying herself as a realtor specifically told the Congressman that she was having trouble selling certain homes in the area because they did not yet have access to broadband.

As all who care are aware, on November 5, the House of Representatives at long last passed the bipartisan Senate infrastructure bill discussed during the town hall.  President Joe Biden will sign it into law today.  The measure addresses national infrastructure needs which both parties acknowledge are necessary – such as assistance for roads, bridges, rail, water quality, and broadband.  This was a bill that even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell supports and voted for.  13 Republican members of the House of Representatives broke ranks with Republican House Leadership and voted for the measure — support that was required for passage given six Democratic defections (we’ll get to them in a minute).

Wisconsin has five Republican members of Congress.  At least three of them represent rural districts that probably all desire broadband expansion.  Not one – including the Congressman whom we witnessed being told by his constituents in that summer session that they needed broadband and supported the bill, and indicating to them that he supported it – voted for it.  They were clearly afraid of former President Donald Trump, who issued a statement after the bill passed, declaring in part, “Very sad that the RINOs in the House and Senate gave Biden and Democrats a victory on the “Non-Infrastructure” Bill.  All Republicans who voted for Democrat longevity should be ashamed of themselves … [Emphasis Added].”

This is a package that the American people overwhelmingly support and need.  One could not ask for a more naked indication from the former President that his focus is all about winning, not about serving – which is the basis upon which we supposedly elect our representatives.  While there may well be a handful of Republicans that opposed the measure due to concerns that it will increase the deficit, perhaps spur inflation, or the like – valid policy positions, even if one does not agree with them – it is manifest that the vast majority of Republicans that voted against the measure did so, although they know it’s a good bill, because they cower before Mr. Trump.  In a characterization that is gentler than it could be, they lack the fortitude we have a right to expect in our representatives.

The six Democratic House members who voted against the measure containing provisions that they clearly supported – the four members elected in 2018 who have gained significant notoriety as the self-styled “Squad,” and two representatives elected in 2020 whom I understand have publicly associated themselves with the “Squad” — exhibited the same tribal intransigence and disregard for what is in the interest of the American people as did the goose-stepping Republicans who opposed the bill.  Their vote amounted to stamping their feet because they couldn’t have their way on the Democrats’ “human infrastructure” package.  In this context, it doesn’t matter whether the programs within “human infrastructure” measure that they seek are good or bad; President Biden — whose “whole agenda” these six Democrats claim to support — wanted them to vote for the infrastructure package now.  They refused.  The American people need adults representing them, not children throwing hissy fits.  These six Democrats are at the very least immature, arguably wantonly selfish. 

It is sometimes difficult to see a way forward in a political atmosphere so saturated with tribalism, fear, distrust, and antipathy. I consider the votes against the infrastructure bill by those Republicans and Democrats who actually supported the substance of the measure and understood that it would help their constituents – whether the votes arose from political subservience or stubborn unwillingness to accept that ours is a system of compromise – to be disheartening betrayals of – in the Constitution’s phrase – Offices of Trust.

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