Guest post by Dr. Christine Eady Mann
By now you have probably read Felicia Miyakawa’s excellent write up of John Carter’s once-in-a-blue-moon Town Hall in Hutto. Well, believe it or not, he had a second Town Hall in Leander. I attended both. My observations of the first Town Hall were exactly as presented by Felicia.
As was true of the Town Hall in Hutto, the event in Leander was poorly advertised and difficult to attend for constituents. An email went out one day in advance via email for those on his list and on his website. Attendees were required to register in advance and registration was cut off a couple of hours before the mid-afternoon workday event, limiting constituents’ ability to attend. I’d speculate as to why he held both events during the workday rather than in the evening or on the weekend, but I’m guessing that we all know the answer to that.
The Leander event was “protected” again by heavily armed police who created a perimeter around the event venue, and was held inside a gun-free venue. “Guns for me but not for thee,” I suppose.
The Congressman started this Town Hall exactly as he did the first: with a couple of personal anecdotes, followed by a recap of how very bipartisan he is, because evidently working across the aisle on very narrow bills is the definition of “bipartisan.” Oh, and he shares a hallway with Democrats, so there’s that.
The first question was about protecting Social Security. Congressman Carter did not provide an answer for how he would do this or if he even thought we should save it. He said repeatedly that the program will “go broke” if we don’t do something, but offered no solutions. When the questioner noted that he is double taxed on his Social Security income, Congressman Carter simply noted that he too is double taxed.
Next up was a constituent who did not have a question, but simply came to praise Congressman Carter, talking about how much she admired him, how when she was in Washington all the other Congressmembers revered him, and how appreciative she was that he had helped her family. She thinks it would be a mistake to replace him given the level of power he holds.
“Congressman Carter said yes, of course, without realizing that she was setting him up for a question about why he stands by our lying, cheating President.”
The next questioner asked the Congressman what he would do with a platoon member who continually lied and cheated, wondering if he would fire that person. Congressman Carter said yes, of course, without realizing that she was setting him up for a question about why he stands by our lying, cheating President. When she noted that, the Congressman pushed back aggressively, asserting that none of those things had been PROVEN about Donald Trump, and that he stood by the President.
A questioner asked what he thought about the attacks on Twitter on John McCain. To his credit, Congressman Carter noted that those attacks were inappropriate.
I asked him if he would commit to debating whomever the eventual Democratic nominee was in 2020, and he agreed. I have this on tape, so hopefully we can get him to follow through.
The most telling part of the event involved questions about healthcare. As he noted at the Town Hall meeting in Hutto, he “doesn’t like Socialism” and doesn’t want “socialized medicine” in the US. He told a story about a relative and the care that she got abroad vs. in the US, insinuating that the care abroad was substandard. Speaking as a physician, the story he told had so many holes in it, I’m not sure I can explain them all in the course of this short write up. Suffice it to say, the story did not hold water.
At that point, a friend of mine who is a naturalized citizen from the UK, stood to talk about her experiences all over the world in her travels in her work in cyber security and other areas of expertise. She noted the benefits of systems in which access to healthcare is considered a normal function of government and how citizens benefit from this. As a UK native, her accent is unmistakable.
As she finished up what she was saying, a gentleman from the other side of the room, the mayor of Leander Troy Hill, chimed in with “and yet, your’re here,” followed by a chorus of attendees suggesting that she should leave the US and go back “home.” We all know this idea exists here, but it was jarring to experience it in real time. It was uncomfortable seeing it up close. And it was disturbing hearing it from an elected official.
To his credit, Congressman Carter shut them down. But I have a hard time giving him too much credit, as he fully supports the President, who foments this kind of attitude.
I’m not sure what motivated the Congressman to hold two Town Halls in one week, after having none in years, but I would speculate that almost losing his seat in 2018 had something to do with it. I had hoped that almost losing would convince him to modify some of his stances to take into account the changes in the demographics of his district, but that doesn’t seem to have happened. While he was combative at the first Town Hall and less so at the second, he still clearly is not open to changing course any time soon. We will have to keep working to replace him.
Note: Dr. Christine Eady Mann ran for Rep. John Carter’s seat in the 2018 Democratic primary.