To be unpolitical in this day and age in American politics is to perform a willfully immoral act. Whether you love him or hate him (and there really isn't much space in-between), you can't get away with pretending that the presidency of the dementia suffering orangutan isn't affecting the standing of the nation worldwide, or even simply it's citizens at home. Being on the sidelines is simply a luxury Americans can no longer afford in good conscience, and it's not as if I ever pretended I didn't have strong political opinions beforehand.
Thus, when I stumbled upon a notice about the Cardboard Congressman Town Hall- and I didn't have any better plans that night- I decided to go see the show. The idea was this: a town hall meeting for constituents of Illinois 13th and 18th districts, where they could interact with the congressmen from the two districts- Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood. The kicker: Neither of the two congressmen were expected to either show up, because, frankly, talking to their constituents isn't particularly good for the mental health of either of them. Credit it where it's due, LaHood seems to be slightly better at this than Davis, sometimes he does show up when he's pretty sure he controls the room. Davis doesn't really seem to bother. Also, I'm not sure why it was the "Congressman Town Hall" not "Congressmen Town Hall", but let's not dwell on the minutiae.
While invitations to both congressmen were sent out- and LaHood's office sent out what was reportedly a somewhat halfhearted reply- as expected, neither showed. In their places, cardboard cut outs of the two men were at the front of the room. Prepared questions were asked of the cardboard congressmen, and then fairly well researched answers were read to the audience, based on public statements and the voting records of both men. Then audience members were asked to respond to the statements with what they would say to the representatives, if they were actually there.
Was it a fairly ridiculous political stunt? Well, yes, but most town halls involve that no matter what. Is there any possibility that even if somehow the congressmen saw the video of the event it might change their minds on anything? Probably not. But maybe some of the attendants in the audience felt some bit of catharsis, and if so, good for them. I did not, but that's not meant as a slight. I'm glad I went. It's just that catharsis with either of these men was never really an option for me.
While I find the political views of both these congressmen reprehensible, I'm going to focus on Davis, because I live in the 13th (Just barely, but I'm not going to bitch about gerrymandering tonight, and I'll be the first to admit both parties do it, and it's almost always extremely shitty). That being said, policy-wise both men are all but clones, so if you live in the 18th, almost all of what I'm about to say about Davis can probably apply to LaHood.
Okay, so, Rodney Davis. To my knowledge, I've never met the man. Maybe he's extremely polite in person, though that does kind of bring back the whole "yeah, but his constitutes never see him in person" thing. But I don't know, maybe he's great at parties. All I've got is his voting record to go by and, lordy, since 2017 started it has gone from him being a slightly reasonable Republican to an all-but full blown ball washer for the cheeto in the bad hair piece. He's voted for the noted fan of Mein Kampf's hopes and dreams 95% of the time, and since this administration almost always aims to do the worst things possible, well, that a'int a great sign. I could go on and on about how Davis hates all forms of abortion, and doesn't think gay people should be married, and how he says he's definitely not sexist or racist just because he's opposed to affirmative action; but, come on. You already know this stuff, it's all such a cliche from the GOP these days.
Let me look at the other side of the aisle then, if I may. There are currently five people running for the Democratic primary for District 13. They're all basically the same on the issues, which is a bit of a blessing and a curse. It doesn't make it super clear who might be better or worse on the issues one might care about. Of those five, I only saw reps from two of the campaigns, though it's possible I might have missed someone. Of the three that I didn't see represented, one is a religion professor (maybe he's interesting, but also maybe he's insufferable? Hard to say), one's a former assistant state attorney general (my natural aversion to law enforcement kicks in immediately, but I'm trying to hold my prejudices in check), and one is a teacher with little to find on Goggle when it's already 11 PM (No opinion at this time, and I'm not doing any more research tonight, kiddos).
Of the two campaigns I met with, one is a known quality to me. I met David Gill 6 or 8 years ago, I'm genuinely not sure which, and it wasn't his first time running for congress then. His policies are all exactly what I want to hear at this point- they always have been. Single payer, lets not destroy the world, Citizen's United is terrifying, can we all remember that abortion has always been here, et cetera, et cetera. I like Gill, but his flyer is still advertising that he only lost to Davis in 2012 by 0.3%, and that's never been a great look. First, reminding people you almost won that one time just reminds them that you still lost to this same guy. And second, umm, that was 6 years ago. Maybe if this was a Senate race you'd have a point, dude, but it's been three elections since then.
The other rep was for the Betsy Dirksen Londrigan campaign. I don't know much about her either, beyond that she was a staff for Senator Durbin back in the day. Her rep was very eager to engage with people, but not in an over-eager way, if that makes any sense. If it doesn't.... she wasn't at all pushy, but she'd clearly practiced her speech in the mirror several times, and would recite it to anyone willing to listen. Well meaning, but maybe off-putting if you aren't a politics person. I am a politics person, so it was fine.
At this point, I have no idea which of these candidates I'll support at the primary on March 20th. The point is, I need to do better research. I'll try to get on that.
One last thing, I don't want to seem like too much of a dick here. Some of the people at this event seemed to get something emotional and raw from it. They're trying to engage men who don't want to be engaging with them. And that may be a bit of an empty gesture, but it still means something. Of course, it was exactly the crowd I expected: mostly middle aged hippies, then the elderly, followed by a sprinkling of people in their 30's who somehow still believe in idealism. (I personally only believe in idealism every other day, because otherwise it hurts too much.) But there was a hopefulness to the whole affair. It was all very polite, I never once heard someone swear, no mater how much I was telling these congressmen to fuck off in my head.
The highlight, undoubtedly, was when a middle school aged girl asked to speak, to talk about trying to generate change at her Jr High; specifically siting the absurdity of Illinois still celebrating Columbus as some kind of hero, rather than a rapey fan of enslaving people. Loudest applause of the night, and well deserved. I keep telling people, the kids are gonna be alright, and thank Christ for that. They may yet save us all from ourselves.
November is a long ways away still, it's far too early to guess anything for sure. At this point, the safe assumption for the 13th is to go Republican, which means Davis. But, we live in hope. Come what may, I'll probably know who I'm voting for in the general on March 21st. We will see how events unfold from here.
Were the cardboard politicians stupid? Yes. Will any of this make any kind of tangible difference? I don't know. Signs so far aren't great, but it's genuinely too early to tell. But I think I want to follow this stuff this year and see what happens. Be seeing you.