Some Democrats went home for the holiday recess and encountered what Politico, to their credit, described as incivility and a forecast for rage. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and Rep. Paul Hodes, both involved in seriously contested races this fall (Hodes is running for the Senate), got an ear full from seniors at a Manchester senior services center. Here is a snippet of Hodes experience:
MANCHESTER, N.H. – If the experience of this state’s two Democratic House members is any indication, the raw emotion and mistrust emanating from last summer’s congressional town halls never really went away.
Instead, the unrest simmered over the ensuing months only to return to a boil when Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and Rep. Paul Hodes, who is running for U.S. Senate, returned home to meet with their constituents here during the first week of the Easter recess.
Their public events provided a bracing reminder to Democrats that the political pivot from health care to economic and financial issues is going to be much more arduous than they expected.
At a senior center in Manchester Wednesday, one woman turned away when Hodes offered his outstretched hand for an introduction.
“I don’t want to shake your hand. You voted for health care, so just go,” snapped Carmen Guimond, as she refocused on her lunch of roast beef and mashed potatoes and waved him on.
When Hodes decided to stay at the table and launch a defense of what’s considered to be one of the more popular provisions of the law — closing the “donut hole,” a gap in prescription drug coverage for Medicare recipients — she challenged whether he had read the entire bill and dismissed his explanation.
“Two hundred and forty dollars in the first year. That’s all it is,” she said, referring to the initial subsidy. “That’s not much.”
“And over time, by 2020, it closes the donut hole,” Hodes explained.
“We’ll all be dead by then,” she deadpanned.
Can anyone doubt, at this point, that grandma and grandpa are pissed? Democrats can ridicule the Sarah Palin death panel meme when they gather for lunch in their echo chambers (hat tip Charles Blow) but when the dinner trays are handed out in nursing homes the demogoguery stops and seniors start paying attention.
Representative Porter, after imposing “a ticketed lottery system and a two-minute time limit for speakers” (justifiably) bore the brunt of some serious invective:
For her part, at back-to-back town hall meetings in Bedford and Merrimack, Shea-Porter faced consistent boos, heckles and catcalls after almost every point she rattled off in defense of her vote.
Despite an effort to accommodate questions from the raucous crowds with a ticketed lottery system and a two-minute time limit for speakers, the congresswoman got little credit from the audience. If anything, it gave her opponents fresh ammunition.
“Why can’t we ask a question?” yelled one man, objecting to a format that randomly selected numbers out of a tub of tickets to choose questioners.
“Are you a princess or a representative?” chastised another woman.
Yet another man was miffed that he received a form letter from her office in response to six specific questions he sent to her by mail.
“I expect a reply. I heard a position statement that did not answer any of my questions,” complained Ben Niles of Merrimack.
But the most astonishing comment from the weekend came from Representative Hodes, who, in a moment of candor said this:
I think now that we have a bill and we’re able to talk about what’s in it and we’re able to give people some very clear information about what’s in it,” Hodes told POLITICO.
That’s the problem, congressman. If the bill had passed without such subterfuge and deceit and a reasonable amount of full disclosure this kind of anger might have subsided. But the American people know when they have been hoodwinked and deceived.
Update: Paul at Powerline asks why they just can’t “forgive and forget”. Representative Porter suggests “taking a number”. Ah, the ultimate delimma: policy holder versus actuary. I think we know whose side Representative Porter is on.