Call them liberals, progressives, activists, or Indivisible, but do NOT call them paid protesters or political operatives. What they do is not dictated by some outside entity, it is matter of personal belief and their actions come from the heart. The payment they seek is an America where each is able to live their life to his or her full potential under the constructs of the Constitution.
Like many concerned citizens after the election of 2016, these individuals were looking for a way to communicate with their elected officials. For those whose beliefs did not match the far-right ideology, they felt they had no one representing them at the federal level and were seeking an outlet to voice their concerns and also a way to have a dialogue with their congressmen. This motivation grew out of concern for quality affordable healthcare, protecting workers’ rights, and reproductive justice to name a few concerns.
This was not an agenda laid out by a political mastermind or a top down organization running the show and giving directives to members of the 1st District. Their motivation to meet and speak with their congressmen arose from their desire to preserve what was good in America and make changes where the laws of our country seemed to falter. Those in Cedar Rapids are fortunate because the city houses the offices of two senators as well as their congressman.
Rod Blum, Iowa’s 1st District Congressman, unfortunately has closed the door to dialogue with constituents whose party affiliation is not the same as his own. Try to visit one of his three offices in Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, or Cedar Falls and, more often than not, constituents will find the doors locked and the lights off. Each office and staffer is funded by tax-payer money. Money from Iowans in the 1st District, who, regardless of party affiliation, have concerns that should be heard and addressed by Congressman Rod Blum. Listening to someone and agreeing with someone does not have to be synonymous. It seems that the Congressman is not willing to consider an open, honest dialogue with all of his constituents. That door has both literally and figuratively been closed.
Scrolling through the Congressman’s Facebook or Twitter feed will give individuals the impression that the Congressman is truly a man of the people. There are photos of him visiting hospitals, police stations and factories. There is even a recent photo of him in his Cedar Rapids office meeting with members from the Family Leader.
He seems to actively be engaged with his constituency. Upon closer look, this fails to show, as Blum claims, that he enjoys speaking with Iowans from all walks of life. When he is out in the district, these visits are controlled and those he speaks with are representing the entity for which they work – hardly the place to speak one’s mind or voice political disapproval. These visits confirm that the Congressman has closed himself off to listening to or speaking with anyone who is not of his political ideology. Blum, through his field director John Ferland, has flat out refused numerous invitations from individuals in the district whom he labeled: Indivisible, activists, obstructionists, and political operatives. He has literally closed and locked the doors of his office to 50% of his constituency.
Unlike his town halls where Blum required proof of address and ID to verify only District 1 residents could attend, his office visitors seem to represent entities from all over the state and country. Coincidentally, many of those visitors in pictures happen to be from organizations that also appear on the Congressman’s donor list. Blum’s candid photos also show his propensity for meeting with only those whose beliefs fall in line with his own. He continuously falls short of his claim that he enjoys meeting with Iowans from all walks of life.
The Congressman closed his most recent newsletter with this:
“I learn so much from meeting with people across Eastern Iowa, and I look forward to continuing to travel the district in 2017 to listen to Iowans from all walks of life so I can represent you to the best of my ability.
Thank you for continuing to follow these updates! It remains a primary focus of mine to keep you as informed as possible on my work on your behalf. If you ever need any assistance with the federal government, please do not hesitate to contact one of our district offices.”
This week was the congressional recess. Blum could have scheduled time to meet with individuals in his district. He could have held public open office hours and invited his constituents in to have an open and honest conversation about the concerns of the district. He could have listened to individuals from all walks of life in order to represent them to the best of his ability. Sadly, to constituents of the 1st District who are not of Blum’s mindset, those are empty words and empty promises. It seems the Congressman does not, as he says, look forward to listening to Iowans from all walks of life. He carefully chooses and screens those who have his ear. And, to those who are not of his party or who have been labeled as a liberal, progressive, activist or Indivisible, the door to democracy has been closed.
by Amy Adams