Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner hadn’t held a public, in-person town hall for over year. Perhaps, like his colleague Paul Ryan, he was worried he would be hit with anger and frustration from constituents worried about losing their health care coverage.
As it turns out, that’s precisely what happened.
During a joint town hall with Republican Rep. Scott Tipton, as well as Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Gov. John Hickenlooper, which was supposed to focus on the aftermath of a wastewater spill at the Gold King Mine, Gardner instead got an earful from the crowd about his vote for the GOP’s health care repeal plan.
When a man in the audience demanded to know “why on Earth” Gardner voted for repeal “when the vast majority of your constituents opposed it,” Gardner fell back on talking points and platitudes.
“Well, I voted for it because I will vote to continue to work to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act,” Gardner replied before being shouted down by boos and jeers from the audience.
He further insisted — incorrectly — that “The Affordable Care Act isn’t working. It’s not working. It’s not working.” To which one audience member shouted out, “I never had insurance until the ACA. I could never afford it.”
And the audience also took Gardner to task for avoiding them for so long, demanding to know his future plans to hold real town halls, rather than private meetings or telephone chats.
“I’ll throw you a softball,” one man stated. “Please, can you tell us, each individually, when you will schedule an in-person town hall here in Durango in La Plata county?”
“When will you be back to do a real town hall?” a woman added.
As the CBS Denver news anchor noted, the audience at this event was made up of people “chosen at random, after putting their names into a hat” — rather than the conservative myth of “paid protestors.”
Gardner could not have been completely caught off-guard by the questions, since voters around the country have been voicing their anger and fear about the GOP’s repeal plan for months.
And avoiding the public by holding private meetings or speaking only to hand-picked audiences clearly only exacerbates the public’s frustration, as it adds to the implication that their elected officials do not care about their lives or their worries.
If Gardner doesn’t want his own polling numbers to follow Donald Trump’s down the tubes, perhaps he should heed his constituents’ pleas to hold real town halls, and pay more attention to their concerns rather than Republican talking points.