Democratic Congresswoman Lois Frankel and about 200 constituents spent Monday night agreeing with each other about how awful they believe President Donald Trump and Republicans are:
The Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The alleged tied between Trump and Russia. Trump’s Supreme Court nomination. The anti-Muslim travel ban. No major Trump/GOP-backed issue avoided criticism and insults from the crowd or Rep. Frankel (FL-21) at her town hall at Compass, the LGBT community center in Lake Worth.
“I think we made history for the first town hall this year at which a politician gets cheered,” she proclaimed a little after 6 p.m., when the event started. “Let’s see how long that lasts.” It lasted for the two hours the town hall was scheduled.
While Republican town halls have attracted hundreds of furious constituents, Frankel’s attracted around 200 sympathizers. It helps that her district, which covers most of mid and south Palm Beach County, leans heavily Democratic. Plus, local liberal group Palm Beach Indivisibles hosted and advertised this town hall.
The town hall was less about arguing issues and more about asking what regular people and Congressional Democrats should do to fight the agenda of Trump and the GOP. Compass CEO Tony Plakas read questions constituents wrote on cards.
A question by West Palm Beach resident Katelyn Miller asked if Senate Democrats should filibuster the hearing of Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. Frankel replied, “What I would say is if I was in the Senate, I would obstruct in every single way, Donald Trump's nominees. Unless I was certain they were going to be independent and opposite of his point of view.” Most of the crowd cheered and clapped.
Miller told SFGN, “I liked her answer. I worry that the Senate Republicans will get rid of the filibuster and should Ruth Bader Ginsburg retire or Anthony Kennedy retire, or something happens to him, [Trump’s] nominations will just skate on through.” Democrats have 46 seats in the Senate, with two Independents who caucus with them. Republicans hold 52 seats.
Lake Worth resident Echo Steiner wrote, and Plakas read, “Do you support the Electoral College?” Trump won the 270 votes from the Electoral College needed to win the Presidential election, despite getting around 2.9 million votes less than Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Frankel said she does not support the Electoral College. “The Electoral College does not favor the Democrats,” she said. “The last two elections Republicans won, they lost the popular vote. I think we should go with the popular vote.” President George W. Bush won the 2000 election that way, but won reelection in 2004 with the majority of both the popular vote and the Electoral College.
Lake Worth kindergarten teacher Lisa Harris wrote, “How do we stop [Secretary of Education] Betsy DeVos from dismantling public schools?”
As expected, Frankel’s response drew cheers. “There’s no question what the President wants to do -- and what she wants to do -- is take public money and put it in private schools,” she said. Harris replied, “Hiss!” in support of Frankel’s statement and against the idea of taxpayer-funded charter schools. She liked her Congresswoman’s answer. “It was what it needed to be,” she said, “I wanted to get her to talk about Betsy DeVos.”
Boynton Beach resident Susan Small was one of a few attendees to get to use a microphone to talk about what she called the militarization of police.
“I remember being stopped for running a stop sign when I was 25 in Brooklyn,” she said. “The police treated you with respect. You had the right to question them. But now they are very militaristic. And they are not educating the youth, of any color.”
Frankel’s response was more cautious than her statements putting down Trump and his administration.
“From the federal point of view, I think grants for training, to encourage community policing, especially local governments where you have the jurisdictions over police” are part of the solution, she said.
Small was dissatisfied with Frankel’s answer. “She said it’s training, I say it’s psychological testing,” Small told SFGN. Small said she voted for Frankel.
Frankel recalled meeting Trump at his Palm Beach home, the Mar-a-Lago. “I saw Donald Trump recently and I was telling him he needs to start listening to different points of view,” Frankel told her audience, “And he said 'the people love what I’m doing.’ That’s exactly what he said to me. I was about to respond but the Secret Service lady jumped in front of me.”
On White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Frankel said, “He is a racist. He is a misogynist. And I have nothing good to say about him.”
Frankel spent much of the town hall putting down Trump and Republican positions, but she did say immigration is an issue on which Democrats and Republicans might work together.
“Many Republicans are amenable to immigration reform,” she said. Frankel mentioned Miami-Dade Hispanic Republican representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25). And for other Hispanic Republican Congressmen, she said, "I can tell ya they are very sympathetic to it."
One issue Frankel avoided commenting on was what she thinks of state legislators’ efforts to pass a bill allowing the state to buy thousands of acres of Everglades. The goal is Everglades restoration and cleaning up Saint Lucie River. “I don’t wanna get in between [State Senator] Joe [Negron] and the Democrats in the state,” she said. “Not to avoid the question. I’ll just say I think we have an excellent delegation in Tallahassee.”
Compass emptied at 8 p.m. when the town hall was scheduled to end.
Palm Beach Indivisibles, which hosted Frankel’s town hall, is part of the larger Indivisible movement, a left-wing movement that started after President Donald Trump was elected last year. At its heart is the Indivisible Guide, written by anonymous authors claiming to be former Congressional staff members.
The Indivisible Guide instructs readers how to copy the success of the right-wing Tea Party movement, which successfully organized and elected extreme conservatives in the 2010 midterm elections. The guide explains how to find other people fed up with Trump and the Republicans, how to organize an Indivisible group, and how to pressure local members of Congress.
Liberals following the Indivisible Guide have stormed Republican town hall meetings, jeering and booing senators and representatives. Freshman Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL-18) faced a furious crowd of around 500 on Friday in Fort Pierce. The Indivisible chapters of Palm Beach County and Martin and Saint Lucie counties organized that event. On February 21, two Florida Republican Congressmen, Dennis Ross of Lakeland and Daniel Webster of Clermont, left their town halls early when enraged crowds showed up.