One of the major complaints about Barbara Comstock was she refused to hold town halls during her time in Congress. She was so adamant in her refusal to engage the public that community groups eventually ended up holding mock town halls featuring a cardboard cutout of the Congresswoman. Unfortunately, this was the closest many people got to actually having their concerns heard by Comstock.
Realizing the strong desire of the district’s residents to have a member of Congress who was willing to hold discussions with the community, Rep. Jennifer Wexton made it clear she’d hold multiple town halls all across the district if she was elected. This is a promise she’s kept as she held her seventh town hall last Saturday (November 9th) at Harmony Middle School in Hamilton, VA.
Now if you’ve ever been to one of these town halls, they’re usually fairly tame affairs. There always seems to be a couple high school students who want to talk with her about appointments to the military academies, some people who have a real specific issue or cause they want to discuss, and others who want to talk about some of the issues being featured on the evening news. This was largely the case at Saturday’s town hall.
The only exception was a small group of Trump supporters who asked some “gotcha” type questions and proceeded to hand out flyers opposing impeachment to folks walking out of the school after the event was over. Most of these people wanted to complain about how Congress was supposedly “wasting time” on impeachment instead of actually getting work done.
Much to the Trump supporters’ disdain, however, Rep. Wexton, was able to list several pieces of legislation she was personally responsible for and also highlighted how the House had passed hundreds of bills the Republican controlled Senate refused to even consider. In particular, she mentioned how the House of Representatives passed 11 of 13 appropriations bills before they went on their August recess but the Senate had yet to pass a single bill to fund our government. In other words, it’s the Senate’s inaction under Mitch McConnell’s leadership that’s putting the livelihood for the region’s large number of federal workers and contractors at risk.
It quickly became apparent that this small band of Trump supporters were simply there to promote their right wing talking points and desperately try to make Rep. Wexton look bad. That being said, the severity of how out of touch they were could be illustrated in how one of them suggested Wexton’s views on immigration played a role in why so many people of color were living in the United States.
“We know that Mexicans would never accept an immigration policy that would reduce Mexican to minority status,” the older white man claimed. “Why should we have an immigration policy that is going to reduce whites to a minority. Whites, who were 90% of the population in 1960, why should whites welcome an immigration policy that would reduce them to a minority in their own country?”
There was an audible murmur of disgust that spread throughout the auditorium as this guy went on his rant. There’s room to discuss how to deal with immigration issues facing our country and how to properly address the large number of undocumented people living here, but this wasn’t what he was concerned about. This guy was clearly disturbed by how many people of color were living in the country and appeared upset by how Rep. Wexton wasn’t appalled by this concept.
“Immigration, I believe very strongly, is a net positive for this country,” Wexton responded to loud applause from the audience. “To me this isn’t about a white or non white issue. This is about making our country as strong and diverse as possible.”
Clearly not happy about how Wexton embraced diversity, this man proceeded to get back in line to ask another question. When he got back up to the microphone, he once again refused to even provide his first name (most other people were giving their name and the town they lived in) and proceeded to claim diversity was just leading to people being lazy.
“The greater the diversity in the community, the less people trust each other. The less they are likely to do volunteer work, get involved, or vote in politics. They’re not even likely to carpool because of the mistrust resulting from the rise in diversity. The only thing they are more likely to do of is stay home and watch television,” this guy suggested. “If, in fact, diversity is a great strength of the United States, perhaps you could give me concrete examples of the benefits that we receive from the fact that we have six million Muslims living in the United States.”
This question actually resulted in him getting boo’d. While that’s an understandable natural reaction when folks heard the blatant bigotry lthis man was spewing, Wexton had the absolute best answer possible. She made it clear she disagreed with the sentiment he expressed and highlighted how there Muslims from all sorts of backgrounds that are giving back to the community.
In particular, the Congresswoman mentioned the ADAMS Center in Sterling. After seeing so many families struggling with the rising costs of healthcare, Wexton emphasized, the Mosque helped start the Adams Compassionate Healthcare Network. This is a clinic that’s “dedicated to providing medical services to low-income and uninsured individuals” and has no religious requirement for its patients to receive medical attention. Wexton also highlighted how the ADAMS Center runs food drives and other helpful programs for the community at large.
Besides this guy spewing his anti-immigrant bigotry, there were questions about the rise in teenage vaping, the opioid crisis, increasing the number of women working in STEM related fields, the recent increase in hate crimes, climate change, affordable healthcare, the soaring cost of higher education, and a few other topics.
For those who are interested, here’s the video of Wexton’s opening statement which gives a decent summary of the work she’s been doing this year.