Barney Frank, the uber liberal Congressman from Massachusetts, was the latest Democrat to face angry voters on issues ranging from health care to bank bailouts at a Congressional town hall. Barney Frank, often prickly when challenged, gave as good as he got.
According to Fox News, “The often contentious town hall-style event with the Democratic congressman, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, drew more than 500 people, some shouting and booing as Frank spoke.” At one point, some audience members called Barney Frank a “liar.”
Barney Frank, if this video of a segment from the Sean Hannity Show is any indication, treated the town hall filled with angry constituents like a classroom of unruly school children. Barney Frank lectured them by turns on their demeanor and on their sanity. When one woman compared Obama’s policies to some of the things that went on in the Third Reich, Barney Frank snapped, “On what planet do you spend most of your time?”
It is, to say the least, a unique way to deal with angry voters. Even when a politician thinks that his constituents are all idiots, he or she usually demurs from letting this thought be known in public. Most other members of Congress who have confronted angry town hall meetings have tried to deal with their constituents with variations of sweet reason.
Barney Frank, though, has a tendency to get annoyed when directly challenged. He is famous for getting into shouting matches with interviewers that he views as being too aggressive, such as Bill O’Reilly. Barney Frank’s favorite tactic is to loudly and persistently be affronted that a tough question is even asked and to dominate the rest of the interview with that affront.
Barney Frank is a product of a unique political culture in Massachusetts. John Keller, the author of the book The Bluest State: How Democrats Created the Massachusetts Blueprint for American Political Disaster, describes a political elite that has become so entrenched that it feels it can be unresponsive to the needs of its people. It promises social equality to the working class, while crushing it with high taxes and rampant regulations. It promises racial justice, while tolerating persistent segregation. Schools are in decline and businesses are fleeing the state. Meanwhile a privileged political class is protected.
Barney Frank likely feels empowered to treat his constituents with open contempt because he cannot conceive of the idea of being voted out of office. In ultra liberal Massachusetts, that has so far been a safe bet. But 2010 draws nigh and as of this writing, the popularity of Democrats is tanking. The tsunami that many predict will sweep more than a few Democrats out of office next year may not catch Barney Frank. But he may find himself very lonely indeed when the next Congress is sworn in this next January 2011.
Sources: Rep. Frank, Critics Face Off at Town Hall Event, Fox News/AP, August 19th, 2009
Barney Frank Town Hall, Sean Hannity Show/YouTube, August 18th, 2009
The Bluest State: How Democrats Created the Massachusetts Blueprint for American Political Disaster, Jon Keller, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008