It's Senate August recess time, and that means it's the time of year where senators sneak home and hold town halls with constituents hoping nobody but supporters show up, so they can check off boxes without making too much in the way of negative national news.
Alas, this year there's little chance of that going to plan this year for GOP senators especially, as Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner tried to rip the bandage off the failed GOP health care plan debacle and got his town hall over this weekend, before opposition could mobilize (or so goes the thinking.)
Gardner discovered the opposition was waiting for him, and it wasn't pretty. Washington Journal's Vinnie Longobardo:
The meeting was meant to discuss the disastrous aftermath of an environmental catastrophe, last year’s wastewater spill at the Gold King Mine in south west Colorado. When you haven’t held a town hall in over a year, however, you may find that your constituents have some pent up questions and not a few previously unvoiced frustrations that they want to add to the agenda.
All it took was one man’s pleading question from the audience regarding Senator Gardner’s vote in favor of the failed Republican-designed bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. “Why on earth,” did the Senator vote for this bill “when the vast majority of your constituents opposed it?”, asked the angry citizen, according to an account of the meeting on Shareblue.com.
His reply–“Well, I voted for it because I will vote to continue to work to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act,”– left the audience jeering, booing, and drowning out his pitiful excuses and lies.
“The Affordable Care Act isn’t working. It’s not working. It’s not working,” he stammered, before being reminded of the grim reality of health care in the pre-Obamacare era by a constituent who shouted out:
“I never had insurance until the ACA. I could never afford it.”
The audience wanted accountability. They repeatedly asked why he hadn’t held town hall meetings sooner and when he would set up a “real” town hall. With an audience picked at random from names put into a hat, Gardner couldn’t use the typical Republican canard that he was ambushed by paid protestors with an agenda to sell. These were real people with real concerns.
Perhaps this is not the type of August vacation that the Colorado Senator had in mind. Perhaps if he had held a few town halls when the health care legislation was being crafted, he wouldn’t be so apparently surprised at the reaction of the people he is supposed to be representing to the threat of their healthcare being ripped from their hands.
He has until 2020 until he’s up for re-election. Perhaps he’ll learn a lesson from this latest debacle. Or perhaps the good citizens of Colorado will elect someone who listens to them and cares about their interests, rather than parroting the Republican party line and trading the people’s health for tax breaks that only benefit the rich.
Which brings up a good point: Republicans are going to have to defend a lot of vulnerable seats in 2020 in the same way the Dems are having to defend Senate seats in 2018. Should the Trump albatross still be on the ticket then, Republicans like Gardner are in for spectacular amounts of trouble.
Sure, a lot could happen between now and then and almost certainly will. But if the Dems can't quite retake the Senate in 2018, in 2020 they will have an extremely good chance to do just that.