LISTEN, we gotta hand it to Buddy Carter.
Our U.S. House Rep only had a week off from Washington, and he spent it schlepping around District 1 appearing in front of his constituents, unlike several of his other cowardly colleagues, who I’m guessing were catching up on “Scandal” or cozying up with their Russian phrasebooks.
Whether he hadn’t been paying attention to the footage at other contentious gatherings around the country or thought it best to jump into the boiling water first, Carter made the choice to start Town Hall Tour ’17 in liberal-ish Savannah, where the 275 seats at Armstrong Center were full a half hour before the Congressman strolled to the front of the room.
“This is what it’s all about,” he said, flashing his pharmaceutical-grade smile. “Gettin’ together and discussin’ things.”
The smile lost its luster within minutes under the thunderous objection of his referral to the Affordable Care Act as Obamacare, and his expression only got more exasperated from there.
Granted, he could barely get in a word over the yelling. His “I’m from here, y’all” rhetoric clearly wasn’t doing its usual magic, and the crowd responded to almost everything he said with boos, hisses and the ever-popular “Science is real!” chant. (For the play-by-play, read Jim Morekis’ thorough report.)
Carter seemed genuinely bewildered by the uproar. Why shouldn’t he? He ran unopposed in 2016 after stepping in the tailwind of fellow Republican Jack Kingston, flapping his Christian beliefs and climate-change denial like Confederate flags on a monster truck. Where the hell were all y’all last fall? read the thought bubble I conjured over his furrowed brow.
Anyone with any political pulse knows Buddy toes his party’s line like a good soldier. While I’m sure there were plenty of people at the town hall who earnestly thought they’d get actual answers to their concerns about healthcare and POTUS’ taxes, many appeared to be there to specifically protest Carter’s well-documented views on the environment, border control and reproductive choice.
Most were aware that during January’s legislative session he he signed on as co-sponsor for HR 586, which defines life as beginning at conception and effectively criminalizes abortion along with miscarriage and in vitro fertilization by way of its poor language, so no shocker that more than a hundred local Planned Parenthood advocates showed up in pink to express their thoughts on that.
The angry outbursts exacted disapproval from the double-handful of Carter supporters with several vociferous “SHUT UP”s. Who knew bunch of fragile snowflakes could be so raucous? murmured the thought bubble.
Personally, I felt a little triggered by the furor—there’s only so much shrieking an eardrum can take, even if you agree with the sentiment. If this is what democracy sounds like, I’mma need better earplugs.
Yet the auditorium was downright tame compared to what went on in the lobby, though it was nowhere near the chaos reported by national media outlets. The 300-plus overflow crowd of many familiar faces—Spicer’s “paid protestors” hysteria is so laughable—chanted in the lobby making their presence known, punctuated briefly with confusion as campus police hauled away Brendan Scanlon in handcuffs.
After the dust settled, some accounts had it that a local insurance agent had pushed his way into the crowd and yelled a bigoted epithet at Scanlon, also known as House of Gunt’s fabulous LaZanya Ontré (check out their show at Club One this Thursday!).
The two came to blows, and the cops eventually ejected the other man from the property. No one was arrested, and Scanlon has declined to press charges.
“I don’t want to go to court, I’m way too busy for that,” said LaZanya on the phone the next day, agreeing that the image of their defiant, gorgeous mug snapped by photographer Dave Spangenburg gone viral may be justice enough.
The crowd recommenced its peaceful but persistent demands of their representative, who escaped out the side door shortly thereafter.
Things were far more docile the next day an hour or so southeast in Jesup, where Carter showed up to a half-full room of mostly sympathetic retirees, though I did spy Kristy Edenfield and Kathryn Shelton, two of the tireless admins of Savannah Taking Action for Resistance.
The calmer atmosphere allowed for dissenting discussion of the travel ban and state coal ash legislation, and Carter managed to deliver vague platitudes about a “gliding transition” from the ACA.
The rep seemed rattled by the events in Savannah and showed up with a full security detail, Secret Service earpieces and all. I also counted officers from the Jesup Police, the Wayne County Sheriff’s Dept. and the Georgia State Patrol, one of whom told me “there are a couple of DNR Rangers around here somewhere, too.”
“Because of all the grizzly bears?” I joked.
“No ma’am. We don’t have bears in Wayne County.”
Maybe it was my delivery.
It was enlightening to step out of Savannah’s blue bubble to cruise more of District 1, which covers almost 8,000 square miles, includes the entirety of the state’s precious coastline and encompasses 17 mostly rural, mostly poor counties. Together they make up a strong conservative base; they love Buddy in Ludowici.
According to the 2015 Census data, District 1 contains almost 725,000 people, almost half of which are ages 25-54. Those 65+ make up the smallest population of adults at 81,195. Yet seniors were the most represented group at the town halls by far, because who else besides nosy writers and the self-employed can attend a long meeting in the middle of the day?
Also, in spite of District 1’s citizenship reflecting as 34 percent African American and 16 percent Hispanic, the town halls I witnessed were blindingly white. This speaks, too, to the inaccessible hour of the gathering, and perhaps to the understandable mistrust of the dominant power system by people of color.
While things got feistier again at the end of the tour in Brunswick (thanks for the live feed, Dan Gilbert), Buddy did his best to stay on the same script everywhere he went, promising a sensible replacement to the ACA (in spite of having no actual plan), to tackle the national debt by revamping Social Security (“We’re going to raise the age”) and maybe to host more town hall meetings during hours when more working people might actually attend.
In the district’s friendlier environs, he also felt bold enough to declare that “the three worst decisions America ever made were Roe versus Wade, marriage equality and taking prayer out of public schools.”
If that statement makes all of your sphincters constrict and your gums peel back, I’m with you. But take it easy, tigers.
You can’t begrudge the man’s honesty. The most important takeaway of Buddy Carter’s town hall tour is that he passionately and steadfastly represents those who agree with his ideals. He’ll listen for a few minutes to those who don’t, pearly smile pasted on, but he will not represent us in DC, no matter how loud the shouting.
He’s said it in so many ways, so many times. Not only last week in the town halls but in his Scripture-laden emails and in the company keeps. He’s already back at his desk in Washington, playing with the frack boys on the Energy & Commerce Committee. He’s going to support whatever nightmare, profit-bloating healthcare plan his cronies draft. And you can bet your pussyhat he will vote to defund Planned Parenthood, along with the EPA and public education.
So don’t waste another breath or sign arguing against him. Quit going hoarse over a dead horse.
A wise person told me recently that the only opinions that matter are for something. And if we’re for inclusive, protective justice for all American citizens, all that matters now is who else is running for District 1 in 2018.