Alex Knepper, a writer for New Majority, the website founded and run by my favorite Republican, David Frum, attended the town hall meeting Senator Ben Cardin held right here in good ol’ Washington County, Maryland, last week. Knepper is like Frum — a conservative, but of a more reasonable breed that values rational discussion of ideas over pandering histrionics. Needless to say, he felt a little out of place in Hagerstown.
He wrote up his experience at the town hall, which was held this past Wednesday at the Kepler Theater at Hagerstown Community College. His article doesn’t mention the asshole detained by the Secret Service for holding up a sign reading “Death to Obama, his wife, and his two stupid kids,” but maybe Alex wanted to cut us a break. Here’s some of what he did decide to share:
Twenty minutes into my two-hour wait to get a seat at Senator Ben Cardin’s town hall event, I started keeping a “Nazi tally” by counting references I overheard to Adolf Hitler, Germany, or the Nazi Party. Besides the usual suspects, the Lyndon LaRouche brigade was out in full force handing out fliers and pamphlets likening Obama to a new Hitler (although the real problem is the Jews, if you ask them, so I’m not sure why they don’t welcome that). It was a common theme, and not just amongst the anti-Semites: “This is exactly how Nazi Germany began!” was a standard echo heard in line.
After a couple of arguments with Christian fundamentalists who accused me of not really being on their side because I’m a godless libertarian-type, the lines funneled in. “Welcome to an exercise in democracy, son,” a guard told me. Indeed. By way of contrast, while standing in line to question Cardin, I spotted an eleven-year-old boy being told by an older woman that “this isn’t what democracy is about.”
The town halls are exactly what you’re seeing on television. The crowds are overwhelmingly conservative — and I mean Glenn Beck conservative, not David Frum conservative. I’m talking angry, ready-to-roll conservative, not rational, let’s-discuss-philosophy conservative. I can’t think of any more appropriate word than ‘redneck’ to describe most of the crowd. Literally every person who took more than ten seconds to preface his question was shouted down by “Ask your question!” by an array of overfed hicks. They were also prone to shout “You work for us!” and “You just don’t get it!” at Cardin, as if Cardin should be expected to represent the ideals of the 9/12 Project or something.
Several commenters accused Alex of elitism (a charge he smugly accepted — Alex ain’t as likable as Frum, but he’s a conservative college student, so what the fuck else should I expect?), but unfortunately I think he hits the nail on the head. “An array of overfed hicks” comes pretty damn close to Hagerstown in a nutshell.