THE WELCOME Rep. Antonio Delgado received as he opened his 17th district “town hall” meeting here this week was warm, based on applause and room temperature. Nearly 200 people squeezed into the Chatham Brewery on Main Street to hear the first-term Congressman report on what he’s been doing for the district and where he stands on a raft of issues, a list that includes impeachment.
Before taking questions from the audience, Congressman Delgado (D-19th) laid out his case for the importance he places on staying “connected to constituents.” He’s opened five district offices (the latest in Hudson), appointed four advisory groups and introduced 14 bills, 10 of which have bipartisan support. They include support for farmers–“the plight of our farmers is real”; assistance for small businesses in navigating the federal bureaucracy; and help for veterans and their families.
On climate change he said he has a “green jobs bill” that would lead to reducing carbon emissions to “net zero by 2050” and help “create a path toward a green economy.”
On healthcare, he favors creating a “public option” by allowing people the choice to “buy into Medicare” or stay with their private insurance company.
That was Monday, July 29. A day later The New York Times reported that experts, Democrats among them, believe that kind of Medicare buy-in might undercut the Affordable Care Act and other insurance. With almost as many different national healthcare plans as there are candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination, they and all elected officials oughta take an oath to: First, do no harm to Obamacare. Eleven million people depend on it. Monday there were no followup questions on the topic.
On immigration, he recently visited the Mexican border. “We’ve got to start remembering who we are” and end the “reckless, inhumane policies” on immigration. He said that local farmers tell him they want a solution to the immigration process and they “don’t want their workers to live in fear.”
Once he began calling on members of the audience who raised their hands, it took little time for the question of impeachment to come up. A woman asked him to explain his reluctance to seek the impeachment of President Trump. The audience cheered.
“I wrestle with this decision every day,”Mr. Delgado said. He is looking for the “least divisive way” to proceed, he said. He defined the effort as not only impeaching the president. “It is about protecting the country from Russia.”
The Senate will not convict the president even if the House votes for articles of impeachment, Mr. Delgado said. “I continue to be guided by my conscience,” he said. It was the only time in the hour-long session that he didn’t link details with policy. “What makes something right is the manner in which you achieve it,” he said. He has read the Mueller report. Monday, he moved on.
To another question on climate change the congressman said the government should “stop propping up the fossil fuel industry” and instead should create incentives for a green economy.
That prompted a challenge from a member of the audience, who accused Mr. Delgado of “demonizing the fossil fuel industry.” The questioner said fossil fuels are needed for the transition to a new economy. The congressman said he was stating a fact about incentives for fossil fuel companies.
Rep. Delgado hasn’t rebuked angry interrogators at local events. His talking points are narratives accompanied by gestures: an open palm, a nod, a slight shrug. He urges supporters to connect with people who don’t share their views. Near the end of the hour he reminded this audience that he had a brief career as a rapper. He used the reference as a marker of what he and his supporters accomplished in convincing voters to overcome prejudice and elect him to represent this, the 8th most rural district in the nation. There’s a lot going on when he speaks. The room remained full to the end, despite the oppressive heat and humidity.
Like the trial lawyer he also was, Rep. Delgado gradually built toward his summation as time was running out. His supporters pressed him for direction—his and theirs. A questioner said he was inspired by the way the people of Puerto Rico forced out their governor.
“I’m an elected official,” the congressman said. “I’m not an activist.” But returning to that theme a few moments later, he urged the Chatham audience to look beyond the “nasty, vile rhetoric” and instead, “make it about love. Make it about compassion.”