MADISON, Wis. — When U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner holds the latest in a long line of town hall meetings Monday evening in Wauwatosa, the usual suspects will most likely be in attendance.
The Menomonee Falls Republican has hosted more constituent events than just about any other member of Congress this town hall season, and he’s encountered his share of hostile — even uncivil — questioners.
And that’s all part of the plan.
Smarting from the historic beating they took in an election that served as a repudiation of the big government policies of President Barack Obama, the Democratic Party and its wealthy liberal sugar daddies have laid out a very clear plan to take down President Donald Trump and the Republican majority in Congress.
There’s even a handbook, titled “Indivisible, A Practical Guide For Resisting The Trump Agenda.”
Indivisible was conjured up by former Democrat congressional staffers. In it, they “reveal best practices for making Congress listen.”
Joe Kraynick appears to be the leader of the Wauwatosa Indivisible group, among the more active and disruptive.
“Welcome to the resistance!” he says in recent online correspondence to fellow would-be liberal activists.
“Come prepared to take action and meet others who are working to resist Trump’s agenda,” Kraynick writes.
Kraynick did not return a request for comment, but he lays out his ideas for sticking it to Sensenbrenner in closed group messages.
Most recently, Kraynick bragged about the resistance’s turnout at Sensenbrenner’s town hall earlier this month in Elm Grove.
“Turnout, as we know, was huge. When Rebecca took her video, some people had already left, and there were STILL tons of people there. And the room itself was jam packed, with about 98 percent on our general side. So, that was awesome,” he wrote.
He offers some suggestions to activists on making things “rowdier.” Kraynick notes that the Indivisible activists haven’t “gone the full Chaffetz” with Sensenbrenner yet, referring to the raucous left-wing crowds U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, confronted last month.
“It might not be quite time for that yet, but (Sensenbrenner) keeps avoiding answering certain questions,” the activist writes. “Reactions rattle him, he doesn’t like them. He tried at one point to move from Trump’s conflicts of interest to the Clinton Foundation, which earned an instant negative reaction, and he quickly dropped it and never came back to it.”
So much for the marketplace of ideas.
“He likes to bang his gavel and admonish everyone when they react. While we don’t want mindless chanting and abuse, in my opinion we should not be afraid to be supportive of good points questioners make and to put down obvious nonsense he uses to avoid answers. This is an issue that other Indivisible groups at his town halls are discussing. There is a lot of debate about how to best handle that aspect of it,” Kraynick writes.
The activist acknowledges Sensenbrenner, a 38-year veteran of Congress, has a busy town hall schedule, “which is great, but we don’t want to become PR props for him.”
“This is our chance to showcase that Republicans have no answers for the really thorny issues we have, that they are spineless when it comes to dealing with Trump, and that the things they wish to do, such as cutting taxes for rich people and ending regulation for, say, companies that pollute our water (for example), are really really bad for people. He works very hard to control the proceedings in his favor. These town halls should be for us to air our questions, grievances, etc., not a stunt for him,” Kraynick advises.
He adds that activist/constituents “don’t have to be jerks, but we don’t have to be nice, either. Tea Partiers weren’t nice in 2009 and 2010.”
The constituent outrage moments that have played out in Wisconsin and nationally before the cameras can be found in the Indivisible guide.
The success of it all is predicated on getting as much media attention as possible, and that means building partnerships with media outlets.
“It’s pretty easy for MoCs to ignore one or even a few dozen people. It is impossible to ignore a small group that’s also getting local media coverage viewed by thousands,” the guide notes. “This is also why videos, pictures, and stories of your actions are so important — local media loves this stuff.”
It encourages activists to “research on Google News what local reporters have written about your” members of Congress … and “build relationships” with those reporters.
Many of the questions that pop up at the town hall events, too, are preprogrammed.
Wisconsin Watchdog obtained a list of questions one of the Indivisible leaders was handing out to attendees at a Sensenbrenner town hall event over the weekend.
Under the heading, “No Piecemeal Promise,” one question attempts to hit the congressman on the GOP’s campaign to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“You promised in Pewaukee Library Feb. 11 not to support piecemeal repeal and replacement of Obamacare. Yous (sic)said it was too complicated to do that. The current trumpKare AHCA (American Health Care Act) bill is the first of three phases according to trump. It is a partial replacement using reconciliation? Will you stay true to the commitment you made a month ago and oppose the AHCA?”
It’s not clear whether Kraynick is being paid for his Indivisible activities in Wisconsin.
The creators of Indivisible (at least the Democrat activists out front) insist that every single person who worked on the guide and website is a “volunteer.”
“We’re doing this in our free time without coordination or support from our employers. Our only goal is to help the real leaders on the ground who are resisting Trump’s agenda on their home turf,” they say.
Many of the group members have ties to the liberal mega donor George Soros, according to the Washington Times.
Matthew Vadum, senior vice president at the Capital Research Center, told the Times that at least three of the group’s five principals have direct ties to organizations funded by Soros.
Despite the hostility and the, at times, uncivil behavior at the town halls, Sensenbrenner says they are critical events to connect with his constituents.
Sensenbrenner has held more than 520 town hall meetings since 2013, all of which have been in-person, Nicole Tieman, Sensenbrenner’s spokeswoman, told the Hill earlier this month.
M.D. Kittle is bureau chief for Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment reporter for Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected]