U. S. Sen. Jeff Merkley opened his appearance at Wallowa Senior Center Saturday noting that America needed more opportunities for people to come together and be heard.
Fortunately for Merkley, it was a warm and friendly audience, in stark contrast to a similar visit from Rep. Greg Walden earlier this year.
Walden was excoriated repeatedly and loudly for supporting what was then a bill in the U.S. House to replace Obamacare.
Merkley was lobbed repeated softball questions on the same topic with the bill now pending in the U.S. Senate. No one brought signs. There was no chanting.
So what was the difference?
Merkley used a ticket system to take questions –– each person who wanted to speak was given half of a raffle ticket. If your number was called, you were invited to the microphone.
Most but not all of the tickets were drawn in the one-hour appearance.
Perhaps there were republicans who did not get a chance to ask. Perhaps no republicans attended, although a few notable conservative faces were in the audience.
What transpired in Wallowa Saturday was not what anyone would describe as a lively exchange of viewpoints. It was an affirmation of Merkley’s votes, which generally follow the party line.
Drawing conclusions without jumping to them, there are a couple considerations here.
Have republicans, who control the White House and Congress, become so cocksure of themselves that they no longer feel the need to engage in discourse?
Another possibility is that republicans –– at least in Wallowa County –– don’t agree with the proposals put forth on health care.
Or perhaps they are simply fed up with the entire process and boycotted the presentation. Many on both sides of the issue are rapidly falling into that category.
Merkley came no where near being challenged on positions on any of the topics of the day. An initiated observer could easily have mistaken the gathering for a Merkley re-election campaign stop.
Merkley’s visit is yet another harbinger of how far askew politics has become in the United States. There are those who wonder whether we’ve gone too far down the road of partisan divide we may never bring back rational debate.
Shortly after the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a lady asked Ben Franklin, one of our founding fathers, “Well, doctor, what have we got –– a Republic or a Monarchy?”
Franklin is widely credited for saying, “a Republic, if you can keep it.”
Franklin’s answer has a solid ring of truth in 2017.
So, can we?