By Ralph Nader
Back in Congress following February recess’s raucous town meetings, Republicans are shuddering. Instead of nearly empty auditoriums, where legislators’ staff often outnumber voters in attendance, meetings were packed with citizens determined to block the “take away” agenda of the Trump Republicans.
It takes provocation for people to show up for face-to-face confrontations with their Senators or Representatives. So when out of touch politicians in safe electoral districts are seen attempting to take away people’s health insurance, social security benefits or other protections—watch out! As the New York Times reported: “In the reddest of districts and the smallest of towns, a movement without name has hurtled ahead of expectations.”
Among these smug Republicans, who escaped because they had not scheduled any town meetings, the response is dismissive, alleging the protestors were professional, paid disrupters. This charge only made the people—many of whom were attending their first political town meeting—angrier. In western New York, Susan and Tom Meara, both in their sixties, held a sign up for Republican Congressman Tom Reed to see. It read: “I am not being paid to be here, but you are, Mr. Reed.”
Once again history repeats itself. As I describe in my recent book, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think, it takes one percent or less of the people to be politically conscious and engaged to change conditions or policies, so long as they represent a majority opinion. My estimate is that, apart from the huge demonstrations on January 21, 2017—the day after Donald Trump’s Inauguration—less than 200,000 people, showing up at Congressional town meetings or demonstrations, have changed the political atmosphere among 535 members of your Congress. It just took one week of a few riled up voters expressing the “enough is enough” fury of many more voters who for now are still a part of the “silent majority”.
Listen to the easily re-elected Republican Senator from Iowa, Charles E. Grassley. After one spirited town-hall-style meeting, he said: “There’s more of a consensus among Republicans now that you got to be more cautious what you’re going to do.” You betcha!
Already the braggadocio about repealing Obamacare is turning to worried caution in the GOP, including President Trump. Too many people are coming forward as witnesses to being saved by insurance for health care they could not otherwise have received or afforded. With all its limitations, its deductibles, co-pays, exclusions, big corporate premium hikes and the maddening narrow networks, there are still millions of Americans not ready to give it up.
After passing bills to repeal Obamacare over sixty times in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives during President Obama’s two terms in office, here is Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama telling a local radio station, “I don’t know if we’re going to be able to repeal Obamacare, because these folks who support Obamacare are very active. They’re putting pressure on congressmen…”
Every action prompts a reaction. Members of Congress, who do not like to face real people in real auditoriums, between elections, are responding by refusing to meet with those they represent or insisting on telephone “town meetings”. Well, the response by the voters should be to announce their own town meetings with their own demands and reforms, at a publically convenient location. This can be done formally with a Summons by the people presented directly to their Senators and Representatives to appear, listen and respond to instructions from their sovereign constituents.
A formal Summons is included in my new book, Breaking Through Power. Voters can fill in the blanks with their own deeply-felt issues and keep adding signatures day after day.
Of course, this resurgence is just at the beginning of its realizable impacts. There are two more Congressional recesses – before the full month of August recess. Citizens need to expand and refine what they want from Congress, keep the focus very personally on each Senator or Representative, and strive to build a left/right alliance on as many contemporary redirections as possible. (See my book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left/Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State, that lists 24 areas of convergence.)
To better inform those politicians sent to Washington, citizens should tap the expertise of blue-collar and white-collar professionals alike in their communities. Remember, there is a vast reservoir of “we the people” who could join the efforts to press for a government of, by and for the people.
We are a country that has far more problems than it deserves and far more solutions than it applies. This is due heavily to the control of the many by the few, which creates a democracy gap filled by a plutocracy.
With President Trump displaying a revealing ignorance toward the role of governing, now is the time for the people to stand up and shape the future of their families and communities. We must demonstrate stamina and hold accountable those in power until they faithfully serve the interests of the people, and not a handful of corporate paymasters.
They must tell our lawmakers they are not going away, and that they will keep coming back with more and more of our fellow citizens, ever more informed and determined to achieve the good life with justice, peace, health and opportunities. It’s in our hands.