U.S. Rep. David Rouzer held a town hall yesterday, the first Republican in our congressional delegation to do so this year. It went OK, as far as these town halls go. The congressman wasn’t booed off the stage; no broken bottles were thrown. At no point did Rouzer appear to be in any physical danger. And most importantly, there was no exchange with the potential of “going viral”.
No doubt, the town hall’s location in Bolivia (the county seat of Brunswick County, about 18 miles from Wilmington) and the time (mid-afternoon) may have reduced the presence of more hostile elements. The younger progressives, who tend to be more passionate, were either in school or asleep. The 7th District also benefits from the lack of a genuine leftist presence – there are a few liberals in downtown Wilmington, but that’s about it. A town hall held in Durham might have gone differently.
Of course, the town hall was exclusively liberal. I don’t think one conservative attended. Predictably, Rouzer was booed many times, especially when the congressman would provide lengthy explanations for his positions instead of “yes” or “no” answers. I think the boos were the loudest when Rouzer asserted the scientific community was split on human-caused global warming, and that Planned Parenthood promotes abortion.
There were the usual stunts. Early on in the town hall, one little girl said that some of her classmates were worried about being deported and asked why Rouzer supported the travel ban. (Apparently she or whoever coached her wasn’t aware that these are two separate issues.) Rouzer responded that the administration was focused on the illegal immigrants who do really illegal stuff like rape and murder. Much booing.
Support for abortion rights seemed to be a running theme. One woman stood up and admonished Rouzer for using “code words” like Obamacare. Maybe she thought it was a subtle racial appeal. Another code word she took issue with, apparently, was “abortion” and that instead he should use the word “choice.”
Another woman, a doctor, stood up to counter Rouzer’s assertion that Planned Parenthood was an abortion factory. She told a story about how, while in grad school, she became pregnant at a time that was inconvenient. She went to Planned Parenthood, where they counseled her about her options. In the end, she decided to … have an abortion. (Great ending, huh?) The crowd loved it though, and she got a lot of applause.
Overall, the town hall went decently. I’m not sure what was gained from it though. It’s clear Rouzer isn’t going to start compiling a progressive voting record, and I doubt any Democrat attending the town hall walked out intending to vote for him next year. I’ve heard it suggested that these town halls are a chance for liberals to blow off steam. In that way, they can serve a healthy function.
Of course, progressives aren’t satisfied yet. Some are touting the success of this town hall and demanding that Senators Burr and Tillis hold some as well. If the participants of this particular town hall can be replicated – mostly retired people who grew up in an era where the First Amendment was cherished, who have no agenda other than having their opinions heard – then our senators have nothing to fear. It’s clear though that some of the organizations calling for town halls have other goals in mind, and that’s caused a lot of Republicans to keep their distance.
Strangely enough, Rouzer wasn’t the only Rep. David to hold a town hall yesterday. Rep. David Price in the 4th District held a town hall in Cary that got hardly any press coverage. What’s the deal with that?