By YOUSUF ALI, Opinions Editor

After months of pressure, Republican Congressman David Trott from Michigan’s 11th district finally faced his constituents on March 18, 2017. Before anyone feels the urge to praise the congressman for finally doing the right thing, I’d like to relay the following facts about this event; it was held at 8:30 a.m. on the Saturday after St. Patrick’s day with only three days notice while snow was cascading from the sky, creating dangerous road conditions. Regarding the town hall itself, no signs were allowed and almost all the questions were written, pretty much stifling any chance of genuine dialogue. Furthermore, before doors were open to the general public, two of about a dozen rows were filled up with people who appeared to be his supporters. In other words, the event was planned in such a manner to minimize the amount of criticism the congressman would receive. As someone who was there, I can happily tell you that it didn’t work.

Despite doing so much to slant the crowd in his favor, the overwhelming majority of the people in attendance came in opposition to the congressman’s acquiescence to some of the worst parts of the president’s agenda. Deprived of the chance for genuine dialogue and signs, protestors expressed their displeasure by waving red index cards and booing. This occurred when the congressman expressed support for Trump’s anti-refugee executive orders, opposition to Obamacare, mentioned the name of Betsy DeVos, and several other points during the event. I normally don’t partake in this type of behavior, but considering that the organizers did everything possible to prevent thoughtful dialogue, I gladly participated. Despite my previously expressed ambivalence about Secretary Clinton, I couldn’t agree with her more when she tweeted the following: “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the… Congress.” Indeed, if Mr. Trott chooses to accept policies which harm his constituents, then he should have the courage to face their displeasure.

Going into this event, I knew full-well that the congressman did not genuinely wish to hear his constituents, but it was only after the event that the depth of his cynicism became clear. Within days of the town hall, the congressman predictably retreated to the right-wing safe space of Fox & Friends to portray himself as a little David against a radical left-wing Goliath of a crowd. Nothing could be further from the truth. Predictably, the host started the segment by playing a 10-second clip in which the the crowd booed Trott’s support for the President’s proposed increase in military funding at the expense of other crucial programs and said that several hundreds of his constituents “don’t support our troops.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, one of Trott’s advisors was caught on tape planning to misrepresent these objections as “un-american.” Ignoring the irony of a congressman who supported a Secretary of Education who is now planning education cuts and calling people unamerican for objecting to increased defense spending, this accusation is as dangerous as it is absurd.

To begin, questioning the loyalty of dissenters a classic jingoistic way of shutting-down debate. By portraying his opponents as opposed the military, the congressman was not simply disagreeing with his constituents, he was questioning their loyalty. This was not a simple misunderstanding, it was calculated political move intended to rile up his base. Furthermore, the fact that the people there were deprived of the ability to ask questions directly made it even easier for the congressman to misrepresent them. There can be no question that the purpose of last week’s town hall was to create a sound bite which Trott could utilize to portray himself as a defender of the military against an “un-american” crowd. With that, I end my piece by writing directly to you, Mr. Trott:

Any fair-minded observer will conclude that you manifestly and deliberately misrepresented hundreds of your constituents by questioning their loyalty. In doing so, you have proved yourself to embody the perception that so many americans have of politicians cynically dividing people in order to win. This deception disqualifies you from any position of responsibility, let alone that of a congressman. While you may attain some short-term political benefits, when the truth manifests itself, the voters will see you for exactly what you are. If you wish to salvage whatever remains your integrity, there is only one way forward for you: an unequivocal apology for the lies you have spread about constituents with whom you disagree.

  • Tom Stroup

    Your interpretation of the event is very biased. It was clear the Michigan Democrat party turned out in large numbers to disrupt the Congressman’s comments. Instead of actually LISTENING to what the congressman had to say, you and your fellow Democrats chose to yell over his answers.

    You should just admit that you really don’t care what he has to say. That would be an honest answer. Perhaps when you get older (with more real world experience)…you will look at things differently. My own political beliefs are very different today compared to my time at U of M – Dearborn.

    Tom Stroup
    Former U of M – Dearborn Student Government President (1991)

    • Claudia Unruh

      Were you there Mr. Stroup? Mr. Ali and I were. Specifically what do you think he is interpreting? Specifically what is he reporting to have seen and heard that is inaccurate?
      Any leanings he has he admits to.
      I find your demeaning comment about his assumed age and inexperience to be offensive.
      Claudia Unruh
      Birmingham. 48009

    • Christine Wolf

      Perhaps when you are as old as me, 67 and have worked as long & hard as I have in the political arena you will understand that when faced with a one hour meeting in a room, not large enough for the attendees is reason enough to yell. We were set up for this meeting by Trott & his thugs. We were used as extras in a video & sold as fake news.

    • Scott Pickett

      With all due respect sir, I think you have the format of a Town Hall meeting backwards. I’m of the opinion that the representative should be listening to US, not us to HIM. Those of us Democrats that were in attendance AND able to make it into the room where the event was held have repeatedly asked for the opportunity to tell our stories about why we feel the way we do. We’ve tried every conventional means of communication currently available – phone, letters, emails, social media, there was even a group that showed up at his office (made of mostly retirees) and was threatened to be arrested for trespassing. At every turn, we’ve been stonewalled.
      The one who should be listening is Mr. Trott. And he should be taking these sentiments back to Washington as he considers his position on policy put forward by Congress.
      And we DO care what he has to say, as it will certainly play a role when we step into the voting booth next November. Between now and then, his unwillingness to listen to us is all we have to go by.

      • Scott Pickett

        P.S. I was PARTICULARLY interested in listening to what he had to say after the Town Hall. If you haven’t heard, I’d encourage you to look it up. A Republican strategist was telling him about how they were going to cut up the clip where the crowd booed additional funding for the military and get a story around how “un-American” his constituents were being. Did Mr. Trott refute this? Did he say no? No, he didn’t. He went on Fox and Friends the next morning talking about how un-American we were. Is that the kind of representation you look for in Washington?

  • LibMom

    Yousuf described the town hall meeting accurately and in detail (I was there also). Congressman Trott’s aid was not only caught on a hot mic stating to “blow up” the part about booing increased defense spending (at the expense of everything else) to “booing the military and making them look un-American,” this same staffer was also caught on the mic saying they “bounced” questions they didn’t want to answer. This was not a turnout strictly by the “Michigan Democrat Party” as Tom below states. These were people from his district who have been asking him for months for even individual meetings which he refuses to schedule. There were young people, older people, veterans, etc. I would like to know how Tom knows for sure that these were all Democratic party members.

    The crowd was very respectful but since he would not engage in a give & take (see Amash’s town halls for what a town hall should look like), the crowd had no alternative but to boo/cheer and wave our red/green cards. And there were parts when the crowd cheered him and agreed with him (e.g., restoring funding for the Great Lakes RI, Trump tweets too much and over ridiculous things, would not vote for budget as it stands now) so to say that nobody listened is again false. It’s easy for someone who wasn’t even there to say what happened and what people’s motivations were (talk is cheap). Oh, and BTW, I’m 60 years old and have probably more “real world experience” than Tom below.

  • bryan

    For the record: Mr Trott was invited to participate in a town hall in an auditorium seating nearly 900 people. The auditorium was rented for Sunday (March 19) from 3:30pm-5:30pm. A non-partisan moderator was line up to facilitate the town hall. There would have been 4 microphones in the audience to allow everyone to contribute. A video crew was lined up to record the whole event so those who couldn’t attend could view it later. And all of the costs were paid for, at no cost to the taxpayer – in fact, the costs would have been paid to a public school.

    Trott turned that down.

    On March 19th, at 3:30pm, the auditorium stood empty. An opportunity lost.

    Instead, he booked a room that held half as many people, for half as long, and instructed the audience to be quiet while he – and only he – talked.

    Having scheduled 2 town halls for Trott thus far, one in February and one in March, I am scheduling another one in April during District Work week. Trott is again being invited to participate – sadly, I no longer expect him to accept the invitation, having been turned down twice already.

    But should he attend, I think he might learn how his constituents can be thoughtful and passionate, logical and persuasive, informative and instructive. He might learn something about the many people he is charged with representing. He might learn to be representative.

  • Laura

    I was left out in the snow because the room was too small. I thought he might come out and say thanks for coming out. Nope. The volunteers were nasty.