Last week was the congressional recess, a time in which congressman are supposed to be in their districts meeting with constituents. Congressman Rodney Davis underperformed spectacularly in that regard, which shouldn’t be surprising considering he’s not exactly known for his availability. To his credit, he started the week out strong. On Monday he posted a picture of himself meeting with a standing-room only group of constituents in Monticello.
After that…..well, that was pretty much it. If Congressman Davis met with anyone else during the week he was supposed to be meeting with people, he made no mention of it.
Yesterday WILL's the 21st aired an interview with some IL residents whose congressman are currently M.I.A, what that meant to them, and why they feel the lack of town-halls or any sort of in-person events were concerning. Rodney Davis was one of those congressmen. In response to that segment, and immediately following his congressional recess no-show, Congressman Davis’s offices released this statement:
"As Congressman Davis has said, he doesn't do grandstanding events being pushed by groups linked to Hillary Clinton's super PAC and other Democrat campaign groups. They are not effective ways to communicate with constituents. However, he does do many individual meetings with constituents, attends many community events, and recently held a telephone town hall where he called 120,000 people and 7,500 participated. On the call, he addressed several issues including taking many questions on repealing and replacing Obamacare, something these groups say is a concern of theirs. Our staff has met with many of them and Congressman Davis answered their questions directly because many were on the call. Our office has been responsive and accessible but this small group is only focused on obstructing and opposing anything and everything the Trump administration does. And that's not how Congressman Davis operates. He has always worked with anyone on the issues important to his district and he will continue that with this administration. Also important for these groups to remember is Trump won the 13th district."
Now, left alone this statement is an embarrassing response to what amounts to Congressman Davis’s constituents simply asking him to do his job. However, it’s not until you really look at the individual claims made that the true cowardice of Congressman Davis’s position becomes apparent.
For starters, it’s not clear Congressman Davis or his staff understand what the word “grandstand” means. In case they’re reading this: grandstanding is when you do something purely for show, or to attract favorable attention. For instance, Congressman Davis’s reveal of his useless pre-existing conditions bill was a textbook example of a grandstanding. He presented a bill that literally can’t work, to an empty room (seriously), outside of his district, in order to look like he was making an effort, without actually making an effort. Another example of grandstanding is only ever choosing to meet with groups that support or donate to you, and using those meetings to pretend you’re actually meeting with everyone, something Congressman Davis is quite fond of.
The congressman then adds a variation of the “paid protesters” argument to his statement, claiming that these groups requesting a town-hall are associated with Super-PACS and other campaign groups. Now, this is a substantial claim, and one you would expect Davis and his staff to have evidence for. Oddly, neither Davis or his staff can provide any evidence. At all. Zero.
Congressman Davis then claims that he holds many individual meetings with small groups of constituents. Again, there’s no evidence this is true. If Congressman Davis wants us to believe him, then a list of who he’s meeting with would go a long way.
As far as his claims of 120,000 being called and only 7,500 answering on his tele-town hall, I’m not sure that’s a claim the congressman can reliably make, as the tele-town hall was a poorly run and wholly unsatisfactory attempt at constituent outreach. News stations were flooded with calls from frustrated constituents that weren’t called, or that were called and hung-up on. Yet to hear the Congressman and his staff talk about it, it went off without a hitch and everyone was very happy! Now I don’t think even they buy what they’re selling here, but I believe they’re hoping that everyone else will.
It’s clear why Rep. Davis has started drawing attention to the disparity in the (unverified) number of people called vs. the number of people that answered. He and his staff have been desperately trying to dismiss these requests for a town-hall (or literally any public meeting) as the efforts of a “small group” of unreasonable activists (who may/may not be paid, the congressman can’t seem to make up his mind on this one). By saying only 7,500 answered, when 120,000 were called is the congressman’s way of saying, “See! I told you it’s only a small number of people making all the noise!”
Now, we come to the congressman’s claim that this “small group” only cares about obstruction and opposition. Personally, I don’t believe the Congressman or his staff truly believe this, it’s simply the direction they’ve been given by GOP leadership.
That being said, the Congressman and his team need to understand what they’re telling the voters in District 13 when they release statements like this, and the voters do too. They’re saying that they don’t care. They’re saying that regardless of your concerns, if you disagree with the congressman you will be dismissed and ignored. They’re saying that while many of you may be with us now, if you ever go against us, you will be labeled an obstructionist, a professional protester, or a member of the opposition. They’re saying that whatever your requests, whatever you tell us that YOU want, we know better and we’ll give you what we think you deserve.
Congressman Davis likes to say that he’s the “most bipartisan member of congress” and that he has always “worked with anyone”. As with many of the claims made in this statement, there’s little to no evidence that what the Congressman says here is true. His voting record contradicts the idea that he’s in any way, shape, or form bipartisan. Since congress has been in session, he’s voted with the administration 100% of the time. His actions and attitude towards those that disagree with him contradict his statement that he will work with anyone.
In a vacuum, it probably seems strange to devote an entire article to a one paragraph statement. After all, an elected official making up reasons to avoid interacting with their constituents isn’t that shocking is it? Well, I’d argue that it should be shocking, and that we need to hold our elected officials to a significantly higher standard, but that’s secondary to my main point, in that this statement wasn’t made in a vacuum. This statement was made in response to thousands of Congressman Davis’s constituents requesting he meet with them in person to discuss issues that will have a significant impact on their lives. With the ACA alone we’re looking at a repeal of a healthcare bill that allowed 22 Million to obtain insurance when previously they were unable to. 43,000 in Congressman Davis’s district stand to lose coverage. THESE are the types of people asking to meet with him. These aren’t professional protesters who only care about obstruction. These are parents, grandmothers, husbands, daughters, and friends whose lives literally depend on access to affordable healthcare. To label them as anything other than concerned citizens asking him to do his job isn’t simply dishonest, it’s cowardly.
Editor's Note: We reached out to Rep. Davis' office for comment about these explicitly false claims and were flatly ignored...again. I'm not sure what I expected.