Wisconsin State Representative Mark Pocan at a rally in Madison, Wisconsin.
At several town halls across the country last week, Republican legislators cancelled or failed to show in order to avoid disgruntled constituents. On February 9, in Cottonwood Heights, Utah U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz faced hundreds of protesters upset at Chaffetz’ support for an anti-immigrant, anti-environmental GOP agenda. One Utah Republican leader went so far as to suggest that members of Congress should not hold town halls for their own safety.
In Texas, progressive groups are planning to hold “mock town halls,” to voice their concerns, even if their representatives are no-shows. On Saturday, Donald Trump held a “campaign rally” (more than 1,350 days before the 2020 election) in an airplane hangar in Melbourne, Florida, giving him a chance to speak directly to a friendly crowd, after three rocky weeks in Washington.
“Not-My-President’s Day” rallies took place in at least 25 U.S. cities over the weekend and on Monday February 20 (Presidents’ Day).
In sharp contrast, in Madison, Wisconsin, on February 18, U.S. Representative Mark Pocan held a town hall meeting where he was greeted by a standing ovation from an overflow crowd. Most attendees were there to express their support for Pocan and his resistance to the Republican agenda.
“This is what democracy looks like,” said Pocan to the crowd of several hundred.
Pocan talked about his work as vice-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and reminded the crowd that they represent “the Wisconsin arm of the resistance.” Progressive caucus members have been talking a lot about the “intersectionality of issues,” he said, “but I prefer the word ‘solidarity’—together there is no way we can lose.”
“What you are doing today is exactly what we can do,” he said. “Be loud and be heard.”
Pocan said his office was getting about 157 calls per day. “That’s about one every 30 seconds,” he noted, “we keep track.” He encouraged people to keep calling and to call other representatives. “And with issues that you care about most, find groups locally and nationally working on these issues and double-down working with them. They can double your impact.”
“Be loud and be heard.”
He pointed to recent successes, including the toppling of Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder.
Topics ranged from working with Republicans across the aisle, to concern for the future of Social Security and Medicare, to questions about Russian involvement in the elections and Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s role on the National Security Council. The question of the possible impeachment of Donald Trump came up and while Pocan pointed out that he “may well have been the first person to bring this up on the House floor,” it must be pursued cautiously. The idea of impeachment helps “keep pressure on” Trump to release tax returns and disentangle his business interests from his role as president, explained Pocan. He also mentioned Representative Jerry Nadler’s (D-NY) recent introduction of a “Resolution of Inquiry” which could force House Republicans to vote on getting information about Trump’s conflicts of interest and ties to Russia.
Representative Pocan promised the audience that he would keep up the fight for their issues in Washington. Speaking recently to reporters, he described his own work, “I see myself as the legislative arm of the resistance.”