I attended Congressman Doug LaMalfa’s town hall meeting in Oroville, California on April 17, 2017. I have a long history with Mr. LaMalfa. I can’t quite remember the when it started, but I have been actively engaging with him via social media for years. However, ever since the local news station came out and interviewed me about that, his engagement with me has dwindled to nothing.
I also attended a rally held at Mr. LaMalfa’s office in Oroville on February 27th. The Congressman knew it was planned, instead of meeting with us, his office was locked, empty and dark. Mr. LaMalfa is not only my congressmen, he is my neighbor and fellow farmer (he farms rice). His slogan for his past campaign has been that he is “one of us”. All of these factors adds to my frustration of not having an audience with him.
I finally took matters into my own hands a year ago and named a boar after the congressman. The boar was a great listener. We solved many local issues together, and it was a great catharsis to be able to give him a belly rub after our discussions. Unfortunately, the boar lived up to his namesake and was unable to perform his job in a satisfactory manner. In the agriculture world, if you don’t do your job, you get culled, so Doug LaMalfa was made into sausage and replaced with a better model.
Mr. LaMalfa has been one of those congressmen that haven’t seemed to be eager to hold town halls in his more liberal urban areas. When this one was announced I was excited, finally my voice will be heard! Or so I thought.
The meeting started on a sour note, the emcee started by telling us, in a not pleasant tone “to quiet down”. That did not go over well. Mr. LaMalfa then tried to make a powerpoint presentation. I noticed he did the same thing when hosting a call in town hall meeting a few weeks back. He wasted a lot of our time re-hashing issues his constituents are well aware of and living everyday.
The crowd was not having it. People wanted to have their concerns and comments heard. It was pretty much downhill from there. Mr. LaMalfa took the stage and was openly condescending, mocking and dismissive. Sweet little old ladies started to lose their stuffing and yell at him. At one point he walked off the stage and lectured us about our behavior in church, as if having an audience with him was the same thing as a religious experience.
It was clear that Mr. LaMalfa was not there to listen. When he was called out on that fact, he blamed the crowd for not being nice. None of his behavior surprised me, his online persona is equally as unpleasant if his ego is not being stroked. The crowd felt the same way. There were many comments out of turn, very loud booing and general chaos. But here is the thing, crowds don’t act like that if the leadership is strong, kind and competent.
Social media and even the real media are now focusing on the behavior of the crowd at this town hall. That is a byproduct of not being listened to. People have been reaching out to Doug for YEARS only to be ignored. As Doug found out last night, it’s frustrating when your concerns are not listened to. Yelling and screaming does not diminish what a crap job Doug has done.
Protestors are not trying to gain your support by following the rules. They are trying to give you a window into feeling their experience. Their helplessness. Their fury. Remember that before you admonish them. Be thankful for the transparency. Remember your privilege. Remember how lucky you are compared to some. Think deeply about that. Then use your power for good, not judgement.
Manners do matter. But so does doing your job. If I don’t feed my hogs they get mighty pissed off at me. Rightfully so. I’m not doing my job. Apparently constituencies feel the same way.
Mr. LaMalfa has been in office since 2010. This is more than enough time to make a significant improvement in his district. He simply has not done that. He does not listen to his constituency. He does not engage well. He is not “one of us”. Simply put, it is time for him to return to his farm to think about how he can improve.