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Tips for a fun and safe (political) Fourth.

June 29, 2017

With today starting the long weekend for many, some people will be listening to politicians feeling them out on  the health insurance debacle.  For many of those listeners, their first question will be…What are you doing here?

That’s the question one Republican voter plans on asking his senator over the 4th of July holiday.

It is perhaps understandable that senators and representatives want to take the pulse of their constituencies in person over the nation’s birthday party.

They may find that pulse bordering on terminal tachycardia, because all politics is in the end, personal.

Actually the voter above is usually pretty satisfied with his congressional team.  He is not OK with them sitting out a whole month or so at this time however, hence the question.

He notes that he only gets four days off for the holiday, and since his job is season-dependent, he takes vacations when they don’t interfere with earning a living. He also notes that if anyone but an unpaid intern ever reads the letters he sends, the senator would know what he thinks.

He chuckles at the thought, remembering when he sent in his opinion on a specific bill, and got back a generic form letter thanking him for his “interest in the legislative process.”

In all seriousness, and even understanding that some legislators may be checking out the latest specials on bullet-proof vests, this would definitely be the time to put campaign speeches aside and  try to engage at the people’s level.  The election isn’t until next year.

For their part, voters need to turn down the heat and act like civilized adults. Paid or obviously organized protesters need to be persona non grata at all of these events as well. It’s amazing how much better everything works when we aren’t all shouting at once.

That said, here are a few ground rules for town halls or public events for all sides.

Event organizers should:

  1. Have clear ground rules and a method for enforcing them. Involve the local police ahead of time and don’t let things get out of hand.
  2. Consider issuing tickets to formal public speaking events, and turn away anyone that doesn’t have a ticket.
  3. Provide areas separated from the main gathering for protestors. They are going to be there, so plan ahead for them.
  4. Provide some sort of ground rules for the press. They have a right to report on the events, but don’t let them agitate the crowds into performing for the cameras.

The Public should:

  1. Forget about what President Trump is or isn’t doing or tweeting. None of these senators or representatives have any control over that.
  2. Have one or two questions, know your subject well enough to engage with some semblance of intelligent thought, and LISTEN to the answer.
  3. Show your senator or representative the same courtesy you would want. Don’t scream or call names.
  4. Keep an eye out for signs of real trouble, leave the immediate area, and make the police or other authorities aware of your concerns. Safety first.

Legislators should:

  1. Leave the canned answers back in Washington. Tell people where you stand on issues, not where your party bosses tell you that you should stand. Listen more than you talk.
  2. Understand that all most people know about what goes on in Washington is what they see on the news or read online, and they are pretty disgusted with Congress right now. In most cases they aren’t so much mad at you personally, but what they see as a dysfunctional system.
  3. Take responsibility. Don’t use the other party or the President as an excuse for gridlock. The only person you have absolute control over is yourself.
  4. Don’t argue. You will be baited. Thank the person for their attendance and move on to the next person. Hopefully you will have some sort of police presence or a security detail. Let them handle trouble.

The nation’s birthday party is about celebrating the best of what the nation should be.  Enjoy the party and have a good time. Tomorrow’s another day, so let’s make sure we all get to see it.

From → op-ed

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