MI-07, Protest, Tim Walberg — March 13, 2017

Dexter Indivisible group achieves what others couldn’t: Forced Republican Tim Walberg to dialog with constituents

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Photos by Anne C. Savage.

For the past several months, Dexter-area residents in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District have been trying in vain to get Republican Congressman Tim Walberg to hold a public townhall in their area so that they can share their views and have a direct dialog with him. Since last November’s election, he has held only tightly controlled telephone townhalls and a single event in Hillsdale that was equally controlled by him and his staff.

This past Saturday, Walberg was in Dexter to attend a men’s prayer breakfast. The Indivisible group Indivisible Dexter arranged a space in a nearby church and invited Walberg to meet with them directly after his breakfast meeting. He declined. In response, Indivisible Dexter organized a protest in front of the church where Walberg was present. On a freezing cold morning, activists trudged a quarter mile from an offsite parking area and over 100 of them lined the road in front of the church.

They held signs and were respectful of the church and the men’s group meeting there. Their message was simple: Meet with us, hear us, talk to us.

Then, when his breakfast meeting had concluded, Tim Walberg did just that. He came out and held an impromptu townhall in the 14°F cold on the front lawn of the church.

During the dialog, Walberg defended the Republican plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, what he calls “The Better Way Plan”. When asked directly if he would vote for a plan that would uninsure 12 million Americans or more, Walberg said, “No.”

The following exchange is illustrative:

RESIDENT: But [these people need] insurance that they can afford, Congressman. They’re going to get a tax credit that is literally going to be 10% of what they’re going to actually be able to afford. So you’re giving them a 2-foot rope to climb out of a 10-foot hole.

WALBERG: You don’t know that. You haven’t seen the full plan.

RESIDENT: Well, the plan that they’re introducing is that way, sir.

WALBERG: No it isn’t. We will not, we will not take people off insurance and put people in a setting that they cannot afford. That’s our commitment. The reason why we say it’s the “Better Way” proposal is it’s the better way proposal. Right now, if we left, and in fact, what’s been said, you’ve heard it said by the Speaker of the House and others, we could simply let the Affordable Care Act to continue to work itself out. It’s melting down.

This last statement elicited laughter and shouts of “No, it isn’t!”

When asked about Donald Trump’s plan to cut a Great Lakes clean-up fund by a whopping 97%, Walberg said he’s hopeful that this proposal is just a “placeholder” item that will be eliminated in the final budget proposal and vowed to fight to preserve the fund.

He was also asked about Trump’s cabinet picks including an EPA administrator who doesn’t believe that global climate change is caused by humans, Walberg said he thinks that only part of climate change is caused by human activity and said, “I’m delighted with who he’s appointed so far.”

Before it was over, Walberg committed to holding a townhall in Dexter “in the next 30 days”. He claimed that the Secret Service and Capitol Police are asking members of Congress to avoid public events or announcing public appearances in advance because his life could be in danger. This is belied by the many townhalls happening around the country. Here in Michigan Republican Justin Amash and Democrat Debbie Dingell have help well-publicized public appearances and townhall meetings.

This was a huge achievement for the Indivisible group from a city with just 4,160 residents. They were able to get Tim Walberg to participate in an open exchange. Admittedly it was only 20 minutes long and was held outdoors in the frigid cold. Still, it shows the power of activism, showing up, persisting, and resisting. They not only got a commitment to hold a more formal event, they got press both before and after their protest.

Kudos to the organizers of Indivisible Dexter. THIS is truly what democracy looks like.

  • Robin Jordan

    Well done! This is an excellent example of action and results – of sorts. The comments about his “life in danger” is not believable, as is his defense of Trump care. We here is District 1 need to do the same thing with our new Rep Jack Bergman. He has refused to hold an in person town hall meeting thus far, despite receiving many requests.

  • Merilynne

    Our Dexter Indivisible group is off to a great start, with several very well attended meetings and this first independent direct action that got results. I hope we can build off this momentum to keep the pressure on. We must get fired up for the next event! Thank you to the many concerned citizens who turned out.

  • Mark Mudry

    Great Job and Kudos!
    The Dexter folks also beat my coldest protest participation. On December 10th 2012 10,000 showed up for the Anti-Right to Work protest; it was a bitter 19 degrees. My education was not under Betsy DeVos so 14 is colder than 19 degrees.
    You win in more ways than you can imagine!

    • Anything under 20° is equivalent so far as I’m concerned : )

  • Lorie Friedman

    IF Tim Wahlberg keeps his word and does commit to a town hall meeting, let’s hope there is another open exchange rather than the the controlled limited format he has used in the past.

  • Nadine Swarovski

    30 days have come and gone, and I don’t see any events on his website, Dexter or otherwise. I called both offices (before stumbling upon this article, so I didn’t mention Dexter) and staff said they were unaware of any more planned events during recess.

    Has anyone followed up with his office ab Dexter?

    • Yeah, pretty much every single day and by a good-sized number of folks. The Indivisible Dexter Facebook group has nearly 1,000 members.

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