To paraphrase the immortal Snoopy (no, never the snoop dogg), ‘it was a cold January afternoon.’ That is to say, that I arrived at the first in-person town hall for freshman Rep. Anthony Brindisi as a constituent, first and foremost. I cannot say that my hat of a political commentator was not nearby, and it was the only way I was seen by members of the Brindisi staff – with good cause.
But my intent, was as a voter, of an opposing Party, who did not support Rep. Brindisi, and did not vote for him – but now have him as our Representative. Like the 49% of the voters in 2018, I did not feel this was the right direction for the NY-22. But by a margin of some than 4,000 votes, this is who I had to speak for me in Washington D.C. Obviously I was concerned on if that voice would hold any of my views.
The first thing I noticed, arriving some 20 minutes early to the American Legion Post 1645, was an absence. For the first time since 2016, there were no protesters. There were no police guarding the location. A message that the Far Left who had made many vile and credible threats over the years were sated with this member of Congress. Great for them, but not a sign a Republican (let alone a Conservative Republican) would admire.
That set the tone of the event. But one clear message got through at the start. As opposed to the campaign trail where then-Assemblyman Brindisi would hold events with signage stating that no recording could be done – in violation of the open events they were and the public locations they took place in – this event had signage that only asked that people asking questions were to not be recorded. Staff members directly clarified to me (though I don’t know if they made such comment to other news media) that recording was fine now, just not to show faces. Obviously my recorded disputes from the past on this matter took hold.
I sat center isle in the first seat, which would place me 5 feet from Rep. Brindisi. I sat across from 2 high school students. They were eager to ask questions on the environment. They happily explained they had organized their peers to vote in the election – on the promise of Brindisi supporting their “green” goals. They wanted to see if their votes – they proudly stated may have made the difference – were being rewarded with his intended actions.
I won’t get into the discussion I had with the students. Suffice to say that we exchanged sources on information, their’s more vague and recitation of what they saw on social media, were told by teachers and book teachers told them to read. But I welcomed their enthusiasm and encouraged them to look for the answers to the questions they had. It is their future after all.
I encountered Councilman Dan Livingston before the event. He has been the focus of articles by me of late, specifically on ethics violations. It was brief but professional. He then proceeded to set up his recording equipment, for publication via undetermined sources as he stated.
Enough of the buildup. The event started, with Rep. Brindisi arriving to loud cheers. If it wasn’t clear before, it was very clear that this was a room of supporters. There were only a handful of Republicans that I could recognize, but many Democrats. I should note that the usual crowd of Far Left Progressives were all but non-existent at the event. A couple of Progressive politicians elected in 2018, and almost none else that I could see.
After a brief recital of the victory in the shutdown, Rep. Brindisi started taking questions. Not from me, though he acknowledged to the audience he knew I was there. He promised to get to me before the event was done. It only took an hour and 40 minutes by my count.
The themes of the event were primarily about the environment. Many were very concerned if Brindisi would help save the world, in less than a decade. While the response was muted and very unspecific, it was a yes. Which did not satisfy his high school supporters who wanted clear answers. Like exactly how high Brindisi was willing to raise taxes. I wondered how his insistence on Unions being part of the “green deal” would help or hinder such a move – politically or even in real world actualization.
Perhaps even more paramount in every question read off a cell phone, tablet, or sheet of paper, was the theme of rejecting any idea of President Trump. In fact one of the two loudest grumbles came from Brindisi defending that he would always attend an invitation to speak to a President. Something which makes sense for any elected official to do, no matter who holds the seat.
There were questions about constituent services, and of course the shutdown. A ton of complaints about the shutdown. Who is and is not getting paid. How it affects grants. But virtually nothing on immigration. That is beyond a cheer when Brindisi stated that the border wall could not be physically made from shore to shore – which is factually incorrect as proven around the world.
But question after question there was nothing being said about the concerns of the half the voters, and more than half the constituents, of the NY-22. There was nothing said about protecting the Second Amendment rights. That is besides an assurance that Brindisi supports it, which conflicts with his votes in the Assembly and his statements on the campaign trail.
Brindisi affirmed he wants to raise taxes, and punish companies that in response take their revenue overseas. He wants to be independent of the leadership, and yet has voted in lock-step with the exception of an early re-opening of the Government vote. He confirmed that he believes that $5 billion is a silly reason to shutdown Government – but wouldn’t say what he was willing to compromise to keep it open.
I was struck as at one point Brindisi stated that no one should shutdown the government over a single issue – though he praised Sen. Schumer for doing just that in January 2018. But then again, in question and comment, I was reminded that this was about the victory not the voice of the District. As much as Brindisi stated he wanted to represent the masses, aware of his narrow victory and lack of mandate, he echoed the Leftward energy of his pro-Democrat audience.
Maybe there were more dissenting voices in the audience. I knew of several, some of whom I know Brindisi knew too. None of them were given a chance to speak. In fact I was the very last question of the night. Was that a tactic to prevent others that may have had strong questions and less pro-Left views from being encouraged to speak?
When I finally did get to ask a question, I took as much time as some and far less than others to say,
“First of all, on behalf of many of the people that didn’t vote for you, that we were encouraged to hear that you were speaking with Republicans as well as the Democrats in trying to move forward. Trying to represent the District in this area and not just your Party. Especially in such a close win, that’s such an important thing to be reminded of. I know many people here today support your views on the Left but there is a large amount of the District that does not.
I was encourage to hear today, less so at this moment, but encouraged, but I am also concerned about something I have heard you say on WNBF, I’ve heard you say it 3 times on your town hall… You’ve mentioned several times that there is a break with the leadership. That there is what seems to be a division that has been growing from Nancy Pelosi and the other leadership in your Party.
At the same time you have mentioned how you have short-staff, we know that there are some other issues in terms of the Committee you were denied, these are serious concerns. We have seen, consistently off of other similar situations, is that a Representative who has such a conflict, is being treated with a reprimand then has their voice silenced. This doesn’t help anyone. We may disagree on a few things, I don’t want you to fail because it means our District fails.
So I want to understand and be clear, what is your status here. Are you being relegated to the outside? Is there an issue? Because you have mentioned it.”
The quandary with the answer starts with the importance of the Armed Services Committee. Brindisi mentioned at the beginning of the town hall that he wanted, and sought, the Agriculture and Veteran Services Committees. That these were his goals since the campaign.
But if the Armed Services was so unimportant, why ask for it? What would have happened if he got it and lost the Agriculture or Veteran Affairs? And why would the NY delegation be so angry at you losing the Committee as Politico noted? An article focused on internal strife among Democrats, and thus inclusive of a Representative that had so much support in a campaign. And why did Nancy Pelosi directly intervene in such a public manner for the denial? The math doesn’t quite add up, though his answer is a very political excuse for the loss.
Similarly, the statement that if he were in conflict with Pelosi he would voluntarily “scream” this to the public is unbelievable. Such an action would result in a loss of faith by the core Democrat support in the District. It would anger and alienate the many outside donors (individuals and organizations) that were critical for millions of dollars his campaign needed to be competitive – and will require in 2020 to retain the seat. Brindisi is far too good at politicking (in the less forgiving sense) to volunteer the information, if it were true, though he could let it slip if asked. Former Rep. Hanna was a great example of this.
Likewise, Brindisi reverses statements he made on WNBF and his telephone town hall. He already said that there have been issues. Sources have already confirmed that difficulties in staffing have caused some delays in communication and constituent services – though if that is long-term is unknown. But that last is not common knowledge. I can’t fault him for not readily stating such, as any politician wouldn’t.
These answers sound good to a public that casually consumes politics. It works for die-hard Dems, and even some on the Far Left who would never ask the question. But it does not work for those that follow politics more intently.
So where does this leave me? As a constituent I have no real faith that on any large issue, or even most small ones, Brindisi has any interest in my concerns. As part of the near majority of voters, we have been bypassed for the droning of supporters too willing to see their agendas met. By any means necessary, just like with Gov. Cuomo and the single Party legislature is doing with the State.
Where does Brindisi stand on issues like Red Flags laws? Is he willing to repeal the tax cuts that are projected to help so many in need in the Southern Tier, and across the US? How high would Brindisi raise taxes, causing how many more businesses to either close, leave New York, or the nation entirely? What exactly is Brindisi willing to sacrifice to push the “green deal” objectives of the farthest sliver of his Party?
So many questions, and I can’t say that after 2 town halls lasting a total of some 3 hours, that I am any closer to an answer than the day he got elected.