John Kline. U.S. Congressman in Minnesota's Second Congressional District. My district. John Kline, Republican. Retired Marine colonel. Son in Iraq. Assorted family members in the military.
Last night, for the first time in his seven years in office, Kline consented to hold a town hall forum. Given that it was a dark and stormy night with gale-force winds and the threat of a huge dump of snow, the turnout was surprisingly large. We mostly filled a high school auditorium. But for little gaggles of Kline's hand-picked supporters here and there, we were largely co-mingled. Yes, that means that Republicans and Democrats were seated side by side, front to back, hither and thither. I happily report that I believe I do not have cooties this morning, and further believe that I did not infect any Republicans with liberalis erudititis. Of course there's more!
I have not yet fully digested the experience nor the things said and unsaid. I'll probably post more about it later. Details. Quotes. Impressions. Click here for a tidbit to tide you over.
The bottom line, though, is that for the first time in a while, I had a visual and auditory sense of how deeply divided Americans are. Division is not unusual. But the tension in that auditorium was palpable. And rather like the State of the Union address, though not as neatly separated by an aisle, Democrats and Republicans rose to their feet at different times to applaud either an audience member's comment or something said by Kline. So the division of the house was easily assessed. Just so you know? We were guessing Dems outnumbered Reps roughly 60-40 percent.
We were a generally well-behaved group, though a few folks felt moved to say inflammatory things that were geared to generate anger. I was embarrassed by some of "our" people. More than once, Kline's famous short-fuse got lit but extinguished before he went off. I think it's fair to say the tension was palpable in that place.
Frankly, I found no joy in this exercise in polarity, which may surprise you. I'm as partisan as the next Dem, but sometimes I am alarmed at the rancor and rage that has permeated our political whole (to the extent that it's whole at all) and, by extension, permeates me.
I'm babbling, because I have one eye on the monitor and the other on the clock. No small feat. The clock is behind me. I have a date with one of my grands this morning, which almost surely will be the highlight of my week. And it is for her and the others that I keep beating my head against the wall. Remember that old joke? Fact is, it doesn't even feel good when I stop. 'Tis a fair mess we're in, that it is.