California representative Jackie Speier held a public forum, “A Conversation About America,” at San Francisco’s Lowell High School, where she addressed community members and their concerns about the future under President Trump’s Administration.
Constituents expressed shock, confusion and anger over issues facing the nation and the Democratic Party.
As Speier encouraged the audience to become more politically involved, some were shaking their heads, others clapped with enthusiasm and a handful loudly yelled out, “How?”
“Phone calls are not getting through because we are flooding the lines, and that’s incredibly frustrating,” said a woman in the front row of the auditorium. “All we ever hear is, ‘Call us.’”
Speier encouraged the group to keep calling.
“Our office does get phone calls,” Speier said. “Our office has not been so busy that we can’t answer them.”
With a show of hands, over half the room admitted they had never attended a town hall meeting before and Speier encouraged more politically active going forward.
One man expressed his fear for the future of democracy in the United States.
“By the sheer nature of more and more people protesting, there is a greater probability for violence, and if that occurs an authoritarian autocratic president could take that and mobilize the National Guard,” the constituent said.
Speier acknowledged his fear of an autocracy as legitimate but was quick to express optimism about the increase in public participation.
“There has never been so much civic engagement since the 1960s,” Speier said.
Speier stressed that the Democratic Party needs to appeal to conservative Americans that might have voted for President Trump.
“We’ve got to make sure that middle-class America feels they have a shot at the American dream,” Speier said. “We’ve got to go the rustbelt, and we’ve got to be there for everyone.”
The auditorium burst into applause as Speier wielded words of encouragement.
“It is incumbent upon us all that we never get there,” Speier said, referring to the autocratic state the man had voiced concern about.
Kuareen Victor, a military veteran, drove cross-country from New York to California this week and decided to attend the event. This was her first time attending a public forum.
“I want to be a part of something because I can’t go down without saying I’m trying,” Victor said. “It’s like having a disease and not at least trying to fight against it.”
Speier made it clear to her audience that Democratic Party has no one solution or message, and that this meeting was solely to address constituent concerns.
Although many questions went unanswered, Sharen Matusek, a journalism teacher at Lowell High School, expressed optimism about the future.
“For the last decade student’s seem more politicized and socially conscious,” said Matusek. “So, there’s hope.”