Wyden's Newberg town hall/Linda Watkins
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden's town hall meeting at Newberg this evening was not so different, in many ways, from those we've attended in past years. But this is the era of the teabagger, and so some things were different. The venue (a high school commons) was larger with more seating, and questions were take on a ticket system. Those things, neither bad, were just reflective of a larger audience. When in past town halls in this county Wyden asked how many people had attended before, nearly all hands rose. Tonight, the percentage was maybe less than half - and the overall persuasion of the audience was decidedly different.
Last summer that might have suggested an overheated room with a chorus of people yelling, shouting, calling out "liar!" and "Nazi!" and such. And signs and pictures with Hitler mustaches for Barack Obama. But that was then. The opposition - which is to say, the conservative Republican opposition to health care reform and lots of concern about illegal immigration - was certainly in evidence. But it neither dominated the proceedings nor offered the kind of "they'll hauling granny to the gas chamber" type of claims that made the rounds back then.
Things actually seem to have cooled off a bit, and Wyden's handling of the meeting was not a lot different from the way he has dealt with the last few. On a string of issues, he delivered clearly-developed stances, well-framed. To one woman concerned about citizenship for children of immigrants here illegally, he was definitive: The adults should face consequences for breaking the law, but the kids did nothing wrong and shouldn't be penalized. On health care, Wyden's work on his own health bill, co-sponsored with both Republicans and Democrats, actually wound up giving him cover of a sort: To concerns about deficiencies in the bill which passed the Senate, he could and did argue that his own proposal was better (as, in our view, it generally is). He also argued that the Senate bill is useful as a starting point, and useful enough in that sense to merit a vote for it. (more…)