Last evening, I went to a town hall meeting hosted by my congressional representative, Keith Ellison. It was held at a Dunn Brothers coffee house.
It was a warm, humid, late afternoon. The room set aside for the meeting quickly filled up, increasing the temperature and humidity. By the time Keith appeared I was already sweating. He had been traveling with President Obama for the day, visiting small towns in southern Minnesota. The town hall was one more stop during a busy day.
Keith came in on crutches, favoring his left leg which was in a knee brace. He had injured his knee in July while working out. In spite of his long day and his injured knee, Keith came in looking at ease and ready to engage us for two hours. He went around the room, greeting people, then sat down, resting his sore leg on a chair.
Keith began by speaking at length about the need for job creation and the difficulty of working with the entrenched Republicans who where unwilling to negotiate. He mentioned that he had authored a job creation bill that, despite Democrat support had gone down in defeat due to Blue Dog Democrats siding with Republicans.
He stressed that if progressive solutions were to be passed, it was first necessary to change the balance of power in the House by defeating Republican and Blue Dog representatives, replacing them with progressives. This would require a sustained grassroots effort on the part of progressive voters, such as the people at the town hall.
When he finished speaking there was a frank discussion about the issues. One by one, as people spoke, Keith took notes and then responded.
It was apparent that some in the room were frustrated with the Democrats and President Obama for the handling of the debt ceiling debate and overall pursuit of Liberal/Progressive goals. Keith, while admitting that he too was frustrated, reminded everyone of what had been accomplished: health care reform, tax cuts for the middle class (which many people are not aware of), Wall Street Reform, launching of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, initiating the Startup America program to promote entrepreneurial development, and other successes that we have lost sight of.
Repeatedly, Keith returned to what we could do: organize, support progressive candidates and incumbents, don’t loose sight of the progress that has been made, remain positive and engaged.