The Town Hall as Battleground

The political process is important and necessary but we’re long past the point where anything worthwhile can be said about this election. All that’s left to us is bad theater played by bad actors. At some point you have to let it go–just tell the truth about it and move on. In Thursday’s town hall the lead actor would be Senator Jeff Flake. However I think the cast also includes grandstanding members of the opposition and the bloodthirsty media whose job it is to make a partisan mountain out of every molehill.

It’s been reported that Senator Flake bravely withstood a drubbing by a liberal audience, which sort of discounts the audience’s responses in my opinion.  However, it must also be said that Senator Flake gave as good as he got, both during the meeting and in the interminable years leading up to it. After postponing this inevitable confrontation with his cuckolded constituents as long as he possibly could, he arrived at the arena armed only with his trusty list of non-answers and his famous smile. It’s not surprising that this smile was perceived by said long-suffering constituents as disrespectful rather than jovial. As one man explained when it was finally his turn at the mic, everything of importance has already been said, so he commented instead that the senator seemed to be smiling an awfully lot.  All things considered, serious self-reflection would be more appropriate.

Of course, serious self-reflection had no part in Mr. Flake’s battle plan on Thursday. His sole purpose seemed to be sticking to his guns regardless of what the bad people did to him, and stick to his guns he did. Some in the media counted the public’s outrage a victory of some kind. I have a different take on it. If Jeff Flake’s goal was to deliver a lesson in futility to the unruly masses, the evening was a smashing success–for him.

I’m not denying that the masses were gloriously unruly. I’m just saying the Senator was going through the motions. He was there because of the petition that was signed by his constituents.  He’s still the same guy who spent his career ignoring their wishes. So naturally the smiling delivery of his all too familiar non-answers worked like a knife in the heart and the people responded by the only means at their disposal—howls, cat-calls and chants. None of it had any effect on the good senator however, who often ended his responses by stating, “I disagree,” which is patently absurd coming from a representative of said masses.

Somewhere in the middle of this standoff things got really…interesting. A young girl stepped up and delivered her line with the timing of a vaudeville straight man, “I’m a sixteen-year-old girl of color and you’re a white man of privilege,” or something to that effect, at which point I suddenly lost my concentration.  I can’t quote her exactly—find a clip of it on the web. But the gist of her comment was, Jeff Flake is a powerful bully who ignores the needs of the underprivileged. Unfortunately for her this turned out to be a perfect setup, because it allowed the senator to wryly muse about being the middle child of eleven children, implying that he grew up in a poor family.

An awed silence fell over the crowd as scenes from The Grapes of Wrath flashed before our eyes. We were so stunned it didn’t occur to us that eleven children is not a natural disaster like an earthquake or the weather; nor is it a national disaster, like a depression. Last but not least, being born into a poor family with eleven children is not even a social handicap–not in Mormon country. Dang! This guy is good!

I left feeling sorry for the town component of this town hall. I still do, even after learning about the Democratic establishment’s email instructing people to ‘put Jeff Flake in their grill’. That pretty much describes what happened but this was no victory for the people. Jeff Flake and the Democratic establishment got what they wanted—the continuation of the status quo–but the people who continue to languish under the policies of Senator Flake and his cronies, got zip. I’m sorry Senator, but that is the very definition of privilege.

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