Mike Needham

“Republicans Get Grilled at Town Hall Meetings Over Budget Plan,” read the headline on a page National Journal, an inside-the-beltway news source that put up with video clips of Republican lawmakers at town hall meetings during the April recess. Given the evidence provided, however, it’s not clear you could grill a PopTart on the alleged heat.

The first video features conservative Congressman Allan West (R-FL) getting heckled by two liberal activists. After 11 seconds of their disruption, the crowd starts asking them to be quiet. 19 seconds later, the crowd erupts; not attacking Congressman West, but to silence the hecklers disrupting him. 30 seconds later, West says, “let me tell you this: you’re not going to intimidate me.”

Congressman West received a standing ovation for his candor and conviction Despite all the bluster and misleading rhetoric from President Barack Obama and various partisan campaign organizations, Americans understand the stakes: we are in danger of leaving our children and grandchildren a broken country. For the 235 Members of Congress who voted for Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget, the high stakes were a call to action.

Unfortunately, many liberals would prefer to bluff, holding our children’s future hostage. An article last Thursday mentioned Congressman Richard Hanna (R-NY) was “Targeted on Budget Votes.” Apparently, an organization called Strengthen Social Security wrote a song called “Hard Hearted Hanna” and sang it outside his Cortland, NY office last Wednesday.

The song makes for a good, inside-the-beltway news story, but was there any meaningful news there? Interestingly, the Cortland (NY) Standard has a website. One would imagine that if a meaningful event happened outside the local member of Congress’ office they would cover it. Well, apparently not. There was an article on a farm that claims the county mismeasured milk, a rapist sentenced to a 4-year jail term (that’s it?), and the royal wedding inspiring Cortland area seniors, but nothing on the allegedly tremendous heat Congressman Hanna faced in his district.

Many remember President Ronald Reagan’s famous axiom: When you can't make them see the light, make them feel the heat. Liberals are trying to bring the heat, but it’s hard to do because they do not see the light.

Conservatives not only see the light, but also they brought the heat last November. They understood big-government policies have brought our country to the edge. Against the wishes of the Obama administration, Standard & Poor’s downgraded our future debt outlook. The Federal Reserve predicts long-term unemployment will remain far above pre-recession levels. Inflationary fears are growing, and the housing market is nearing another dip.

According to a Rasmussen poll, just 31% of likely voters believe America’s best days are still to come. Just one in four Americans believes our country is heading in the right direction. Consumer confidence took a big step back in large part due to rising gasoline prices. And, perhaps most importantly, a Washington Post/Pew poll reveals that 81% of Americans believe we must address our national budget crisis now.

Those concerns come as no surprise for the Members of Congress who came face-to-face with their constituents during the two-week recess. When their constituents talked about reforming our unsustainable entitlement system, most Members relished the chance to discuss the challenges we face and the path we can choose.

Rather than embrace the necessity of bold reforms or offer their own plan, liberals continue to embrace hateful rhetoric and misleading claims. Unfortunately, responding to an angry political hack with a colorful chart and intellectually sound argument doesn’t make for a great YouTube video, but it is the kind of adult conversation we need to be having.

There have been plenty of inside-the-beltway articles written about the heat – or lack thereof – Republican lawmakers have gotten at their townhall meetings. But where is that heat coming from?

"Strengthen Social Security," the group attacking Congressman Hanna, is a front for various liberal labor unions with its steering committee populated by groups like the AFL-CIO, the SEIU, and the American Federation of Teachers.

And the protesters at Congressman West's townhall? Grassroots outrage at a principled conservative trying to tackle our nation's problems? Nope. One of the two protesters arrested was a professional leftist, a former Air America radio host.

Right now, the real grassroots outrage is at those who are trying to cut off an adult conversation about our nation's future before it even gets started.


Mike Needham

Mike Needham is the Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Action for America, a grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to advancing legislation that promotes freedom, opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.