Today, we had the opportunity to take an active role in the governance our our great country.
As a life long Republican, it was not an automatic, nor at the beginning, an easy choice to vote for Obama for President and Donnelly for Congress, but based on their demeanor, their philosophies, and their genuine care for their constituents, I am proud to say that I voted for them both. This decision was validated today when we went to a Constituent Corner meeting featuring Congressman Joe Donnelly.
His focus was going to be to sit down with individual constituents to assist with their needs, a worthwhile endeavor in its own right. But based on the size of the crowd (150-200) crammed into a local Martin's supermarket Cafe, he decided to do a town hall type format first, then do the one-on-one thing. I was so impressed with his patience, his willingness to answer questions, and the way he kept the meeting from getting out of control. He emphasized that he was in town for the whole month, and that he would take the time, each and every day, to hear all opinions. As people raised their voices, he told them he would not call on them, and he asked several times for folks to respect each other. He used the Chocolate and Vanilla analogy to acknowledge that we have differences of opinion and likes and dislikes, but that does not make one or the other either right or wrong.
There certainly is a lot of emotion and controversy regarding the health care proposals. I was struck with the amount of general anger that was in the crowd. I was also dismayed with the amount of misinformation that the crowd had absorbed. There were questions about rationing of health care, about the counseling for euthanasia, about how people are comparing Obama's administration to the Nazi regime, and how the health care bill will over time supplant private insurance.
I did get to ask Congressman Donnelly a question regarding something our CEO talked about yesterday at our all hands meeting. Our CEO has been prominent in the cap and trade legislation talks, and also about energy policy. His concern about health care is that individual state utility commissions could challenge our health care costs and challenge us to match what ever public option or cooperative arrangement ends up in the final bill. So my question to Congressman Donnelly (we do not know yet whether it was caught on TV or by the paper :o) was along the lines of "Are there provisions in the bill to prevent public commissions or shareholders from challenging companies to abandon their private plans for the less expensive public option?" His response is that that option is disallowed by the bill, and that he would get back to me with more detail. One of his staffers came up after the question and asked me to write down my question and contact information. I am confident I will get a phone call or e-mail from him with a more detailed answer.
When it was all said and done, I made a point of shaking his hand, and he looked me in the eye and said thank you. I think having legitimate questions versus the usual rhetoric meant something to him :o)
All in all, very interesting to be there, we are glad we went. Guess that is enough for this entry, and there is always Beth's take on this, which I have not yet read :o) So I am posting mine and heading over to Nutwood.