Thousands of citizens fanned out to congressional offices across the country this afternoon to tell their members of Congress to not pay the ransom being demanded by congressional conservatives—deep cuts in economic security programs for seniors, the sick and the economically struggling while protecting the tax breaks of millionaires and billionaires—in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.
They were responding to Monday’s call by MoveOn, Rebuild the Dream, Campaign for America’s Future and other organizations for progressives to flood congressional offices with phone calls and emails on Monday and to show up in front of congressional district offices at noon today.
“I stand behind Obama and do not support cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. COMPROMISE,” a person identified as LeaSpiritLove wrote to us on Twitter while heading to the office of Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa. Twelve people showed up in from of Rep. Altmire’s office in response to the call for mini-demonstrations, LeaSpiritLove reported, using the hashtag #saveamericandream.
The head of Rebuild the Dream, Van Jones, captured the basic message of the actions in a media statement released earlier today. “The folks in Washington should not force seniors, the middle class and the poor to bear the burden in a debt deal just so millionaires and corporations don’t have to pay a dime more in taxes,” he said. “We need a balanced approach to our budget problems and there’s nothing balanced about gutting Social Security and Medicare in the midst of an economic crisis.”
Some first-term Republican House members who rode the Tea Party wave into office saw some of the biggest turnouts in front of their offices. Thirty people showed up at the office of Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark. A similar-sized crowd showed up at the office of freshman Rep. Chris Gibson, R-N.Y., with signs saying, “Where are the Jobs”, “Save Social Security” and “Preserve Medicare.” A rally at the office of freshman Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., featured a woman identified only as Rachel whose story was transmitted via Twitter: “no #HC [health care] used all savings, mortgaged -multi health problems … I used to be middle class. I cannot pay for medicine now.”
CAF senior fellow Dave Johnson was among the more than 40 people who showed up in front of the office of Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif. A group that called themselves the Raging Grannies sang protest songs set to familiar melodies, such as a song set to the tune of “Frere Jacques” with the refrain “Don’t Throw Grandma Under the Bus.”
In Nashua, N.H., a group of protestors held their signs in sight of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who was lunching at a restaurant with his wife, according to one report collected by Rebuild the Dream staff.
The plan to encourage people to stage these impromptu demonstrations at congressional offices was conceived by a group of activists over the weekend, with emails going out Sunday afternoon and Monday. The effort appears to have been boosted by President Obama’s statement in his address Monday night that people should contact their members of Congress and let them know they support a balanced approach to deficit reduction, not the slash, crush and topple approach being demanded by House Republicans. As a result, there were widespread reports of crashed websites and jammed phones on Capitol Hill.
“Due to overwhelming volume, my website has been down all morning,” reported Rep. Bill Owens, D-N.Y., on Twitter.
The fact that groups of anywhere from a dozen to more than 50 people would show up in front of their congressional district offices in the middle of a Tuesday, with as little as a day’s notice, speaks to the support for a balanced deficit plan that asks millionaires and billionaires to do their part and does not put the entire burden of addressing the nation’s debt on the middle class and the economically struggling. Conservatives who claim they are pursuing their agenda on behalf of “the American people” were shown once again today that they are out of step what what the American majority is demanding of Washington.
It is now up to Congress and the Obama administration to heed today’s oft-tweeted message: “Raise the debt ceiling. No conditions. Save the American dream.”