Republican Senators and Representatives are back in their home districts while Congress is in recess. But it’s hardly a time for them to hit the links or kiss babies — instead, they’re facing the wrath of constituents who are furious over potential cuts to health care.
During Wednesday night’s Trump: The First Month special on MSNBC, hosted by Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams, the TV hosts marveled over packed town halls in so-called red states where Republican incumbents are, in Maddow’s words, “on trial”.
“There is no clear leadership in the Democratic party, but that doesn’t mean there’s no leadership,” Williams said. “It’s coming from the people.”
A clip of a town hall meeting with Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton showed a woman in the audience who asked “all those affected by [the Affordable Care Act] to stand”. Almost the entire room appeared to get to their feet.
When Cotton replied, “Everyone in this room has been hurt or help—,” the crowd interrupted him with boos. The questioner remarked that the law passed by former President Barack Obama had saved her life.
That sentiment was echoed by another audience member who said she and two other members of her family would be dead or homeless were it not for the law, which Republicans are threatening to “repeal and replace” with new legislation.
“I am an angry constituent, and you work for us,” the woman said.
Maddow noted that, while protests against Trump and his policies are erupting in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., constituents are also rising up in states such as Idaho and Montana.
“It gives such lie to the idea that there is a national politics that you can generalize about that divides the country into red states and blue states,” she said.
Even in reliably red Utah, Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz recently faced a throng of angry constituents during a town hall meeting, the hosts noted.
“[The anger is] real, organic, coast-to-coast and tip-to-top,” Williams said.
Added Maddow: “The poster issues of Trump — the wall, the Muslim ban — are not what people are talking about. [They’re concerned] about disability, Social Security…’I might die without this.'”
Another MSNBC host, Chris Matthews, chimed in about what he called “the soft underbelly of Trumpism” — supporters who favored “macho Trump, but then suddenly wonder if he’s going to take away their health care.”
According to Matthews, constituents take action when they sense that politicians are going to “try to mess” with entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and now the ACA.
Matthews actually tipped his hat to Kellyanne Conway, the President Donald Trump counselor who is banned from appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, for saying, “People are more influenced by what affects them than what offends them.”
She said: “People are out there right now saying, ‘yeah we’re concerned about Donald Trump and Russia, and investigate that… [but they’re saying,] ‘Listen, Republican member of Congress, Republican Senator, there are 20 million people who have health care right now who you say are going to lose it because of this program and you don’t have anything to replace it with?’
“It doesn’t matter who the president is. This is now Republican politics on trial all the way across the country.”
The Rachel Maddow Show airs weekdays at 9pm on MSNBC.