Saturday, February 11, 2017

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE: Rep. Jason Chaffetz vs. The Inconsolable


Congressman Jason Chaffetz held a town hall meeting recently to reach out to constituents and hear their concerns.  You can see for yourself what happened next:



This video has given me renewed respect for Representative Chaffetz.  I can't say that I would have withstood 90 minutes of this kind of treatment.  Somehow, he mustered the professionalism to address the crowd in a respectful tone and accommodating tenor.

If you listen to the first few minutes of the video, you can hear a lot of the crowd shouting the word "indivisible".  It turns out that there is a progressive grassroots movement by that name that is educating activists on how to best disrupt town hall meetings and other gatherings.   Here is an excerpt from their website:


AT THE TOWN HALL

  1. Get there early, meet up, and get organized. Meet outside or in the parking lot for a quick huddle before the event. Distribute the handout of questions, and encourage members to ask the questions on the sheet or something similar.
     
  2. Get seated and spread out. Head into the venue a bit early to grab seats at the front half of the room, but do not all sit together. Sit by yourself or in groups of two, and spread out throughout the room. This will help reinforce the impression of broad consensus.
     
  3. Make your voices heard by asking good questions. When the MoC opens the floor for questions, everyone in the group should put their hands up and keep them there. Look friendly or neutral so that staffers will call on you. When you’re asking a question, remember the following guidelines:

    Stick with the prepared list of questions. Don’t be afraid to read it straight from the printout if you need to.

    Be polite but persistent, and demand real answers. MoCs are very good at deflecting or dodging questions they don’t want to answer. If the MoC dodges, ask a follow-up question. If they aren’t giving you real answers, then call them out for it. Other group members around the room should amplify by either booing the MoC or applauding you.

    Don’t give up the mic until you’re satisfied with the answer. If you’ve asked a hostile question, a staffer will often try to limit your ability to follow up by taking the microphone back immediately after you finish speaking. They can’t do that if you keep a firm hold on the mic. No staffer in their right mind wants to look like they’re physically intimidating a constituent, so they will back off. If they object, then say politely but loudly: “I’m not finished. The MoC is dodging my question. Why are you trying to stop me from following up?”

    Keep the pressure on. After one member of the group finishes, everyone should raise their hands again. The next member of the group to be called on should move down the list of questions and ask the next one.
     
  4. Support the group and reinforce the message. After one member of your group asks a question, everyone should applaud to show that the feeling is shared throughout the audience.  Whenever someone from your group gets the mic, they should note that they’re building on the previous questions — amplifying the fact that you’re part of a broad group.
     
  5. Record everything! Assign someone in the group to use their smart phone or video camera to record other advocates asking questions and the MoC’s response. While written transcripts are nice, unfavorable exchanges caught on video can be devastating for MoCs. These clips can be shared through social media and picked up by local and national media. Please familiarize yourself with your state and local laws that govern recording, along with any applicable Senate or House rules, prior to recording. These laws and rules vary substantially from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

AFTER THE TOWN HALL

  1. Reach out to media, during and after the town hall. If there’s media at the town hall, the people who asked questions should approach them afterward and offer to speak about their concerns. When the event is over, you should engage local reporters on Twitter or by email and offer to provide an in-person account of what happened, as well as the video footage you collected. Example Twitter outreach:

    “.@reporter I was at Rep. Smith’s town hall in Springfield today. Large group asked about Medicare privatization. I have video & happy to chat.”
    Note: It’s important to make this a public tweet by including the period before the journalist’s Twitter handle. Making this public will make the journalist more likely to respond to ensure they get the intel first.

    Ensure that the members of your group who are directly affected by specific threats are the ones whose voices are elevated when you reach out to media.
     
  2. Share everything. Post pictures, video, your own thoughts about the event, etc., to social media afterward. Tag the MoC’s office and encourage others to share widely.

This is pretty much what we saw at the Chaffetz event.  Prepared questions were read.  The crowd demanded a microphone.  Questioners asked several follow up questions for as long as they could. The crowd cheered wildly anytime a questions resonated with them. Everything was shared live on Facebook and social media.

Meanwhile, I have my own town hall meeting coming up.   I inadvertently volunteered as the House Punching Bag this session after provoking the ire of activists several weeks ago.  So, I do expect a lively and interesting event.   Look for a report on that next week.      



10 comments:

  1. Um, how about instead of ad hominem attacks towards the 'activists' you state your position and give a valid argument. I still don't know what your position is, beyond the knowledge that you don't like the protesters.

    I want to know what your position is; defend it, then listen to what the protesters are saying. Ask your constituents if the 'disruptors' actually reflect the views of your voters. Your job is to listen to US, to represent OUR views. Have you lost sight of that?

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    1. Anonymous, I'm betting that you're not in Representative Peterson's district but another person from the Indivisible group. I found this post very insightful. Good to be prepared and see how these people are organizing to disrupt civil discourse, so they get their way in four years. This is mob rule intended to shout down anyone who doesn't agree and very different from hearing the views of voters. Sad.

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  2. Anonymous, I listened to all 90 minutes of that town hall meeting. The voters that I have spoken to that voted for me do not share the same level of vehement rejection of our current state of affairs. You want to know what my position is. Thank you for asking. But my position on what? There are 10,000 issues to discuss. I have almost 10 years of blog posts here to help offer insight to my worldview. My positions should be easily known.

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    1. Mr. Peterson, you represent all of the people in your district, not just the ones that voted for you. You should talk to the 44.32% of voters (4,426 people) in your district that voted for your opponent in the 2016 election (source: vote.utah.gov). I am one of your constituents and will be at the town hall meeting tomorrow and I sincerely hope that you listen to and answer my questions. I sent you a well thought out and researched email a couple of weeks ago and did not receive a response. What is the best way to share our thoughts with you?

      Julie Draper, Roy, Utah

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    2. I wanted to let you know that I voted for you specifically because you listen to your voters. I saw you floating around the Weber State Campus at some event, surrounded by a gaggle of students like the most favorite teacher.

      You were listening to what they had to say, and I really admired that. The other congressmen, your opponent, had dismissed me outright.

      I know its easy to get cynical, stick to the easy path and ignore people when things get tough, but I implore you to still listen.

      Please, keep listening; its what I admire about you the most. Please don't lose that now that the volume has gone up and the tone is sharper.

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    3. Anonymous, I am still listening! :) I encourage you to visit video from our recent town hall. :) http://mrpetersonsperspectives.blogspot.com/2017/02/video-rep-jeremy-petersons-spirited.html Thanks for the Kudos.

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  3. Jeremy - C'mon it is pretty transparent how one sided Mr. Chaffetz loyalty is to the GOP in his witch hunt of Hilary C. while turning a blind eye to our president and all his conflicts.

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  4. Julie,

    Due to intense meeting schedules at the capitol, email and phone are typically less effective during the session. I recommend coming to the Capitol during floor time and sending in a green note to pull me off the floor to chat. That is the best way to reach me right now...or attending the town hall meeting is the next best alternative. ;)

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  5. Jason received everything he deserved. If anything you should have less respect for him. He skirted around issues, and didn't answer questions. He trolled his own constituents. Its Jason, then Party, and then maybe country. As long as you don't do any of those things you'll probably be o.k.

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  6. The local News were the ones who streamed it live the whole time, and of course everyone records everything nowadays and posts it on Facebook, and cheers for things they like. I'm not sure how that proved anything about the site you are referring to, not to mention that the conservative groups (that strongly oppose a lot of stuff the Trump administration has done) I follow on Facebook all mentioned this and suggested people in that area attend, and NEVER said to do these things mentioned in your post. I'm also not sure why you wouldn't have a microphone, the venue was big and people wouldn't have been able to hear otherwise. I also do not understand what is wrong with protesters, it was not violent in any way. Yes it did make it hard to hear inside when people were loud, but just know that the people of Utah are FIRED up. BTW I'm a Republican voter in your district, who voted for you, and who has been transformed by this election. I intend on following everything in Utah a lot more closely, and holding our Government leaders responsible to the best of my ability, and I strongly agree with a lot of the things those "protesters" said, and know MANY more who do too. Please don't ignore or cast aside those of us that are NOT satisfied with our Government. It's your job to listen to US. I will be there tomorrow! I Live just down the street from the new public Library.

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Welcome! Your comments and thoughts are greatly appreciated. Criticism, insights, questions and queries are always welcome. However, please be civil and composed in your presentation.