In a small cozy room on the 14th floor of the Double Tree hotel, Tom Steyer invited Northern Virginians to talk about impeaching Donald Trump. The Town Hall began with a short opening by Steyer, where he pleaded for the public’s support in impeaching Trump. He drew a parallel to Nixon’s impeachment, and how the citizens then united and threatened their representative’s re-election. During Nixon’s scandal, citizens gave their representatives an ultimatum – either Nixon goes, or you go. Threatening representative’s seats created a sense of urgency for Nixon’s impeachment and resulted in his resignation. Steyer hopes to recreate that sense of urgency through town halls held all over the country for Donald Trump’s impeachment.
Once the idea behind the town hall was laid out, people began asking questions and giving long-winded speeches that were wildly off topic. It felt as though it was the first day of political science 101, and every student was trying to impress the professor with their knowledge of healthcare, LGBTQ+ rights, environmental protection, and every other tenant of the modern Democratic Party. Without missing a beat, Steyer replied to every soapbox rant flawlessly and affirmed each speaker that he did, in fact, share the same values. The communications director allowed each speaker to go off on rants without trying to refocus the discussion. Steyer’s Town Hall began to seem less like a meeting to discuss the road to impeachment, and more of an investigation into whether Steyer could be supported in his own political race. The people of Northern Virginia did not want to discuss impeachment. Instead, they spent the Town Hall testing Steyer’s values for their potential support.
By chance, I sat next to a self-proclaimed ex-Republican. We chatted a bit, and he fancied himself a Republican before Trump started mucking everything up. This guy was exactly the type of person that this town hall was intended to reach. Republican Representatives in Congress will only listen to their base that provides a similar ultimatum as Nixon’s. Without the Republicans that are critical of Trump’s actions, impeachment will not have a sense of urgency until a blue wave mid-term. Halfway through he whispered over to me that this place was “just an echo chamber.” Then he shook my hand, got up, and left. It was disappointing to see a Republican critical of Donald Trump leave because the room went off subject to talk about Democratic issues.
Perhaps the point of the Town Hall was not to talk about impeachment but instead, an opportunity for Steyer to gauge his potential support for a presidential campaign in the future. Steyer was a very eloquent public speaker and had a firm grasp on the issues that were most important to Northern Virginians. I am curious to see how his Town Halls will go to other locations across the country. Will he visit areas that are more Republican? Or will he play it safe, and stay in more Democratic areas? Is his intention to invite people to begin buzzing about him becoming a future president, or to discuss the road to impeachment? I hope his visit to Arlington was the anomaly, and the other town halls will reach those Republicans that want to see Trump impeached.