A Tale of Two Town Halls Highlights A New Media Bias

Guest Column: Thank You Wise

EDITORS NOTE: This column is a guest column from Matthew Pugh of the Anne Arundel County Central Committee. This piece is in regards to the WISE forum we wrote about last week. This piece was originally offered to the Severna Park/Pasadena Voice as Pugh’s regularly monthly column, but it was “too hot” for the Voice.

Thank You WISE
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the District 33 town hall meeting hosted by the new local activist group, WISE (Women, Indivisible, Strong, Effective).

Held at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church, the meeting featured two WISE moderators and a panel of four Republican officials from 33, Senator Ed Reilly and Delegates Michael Malone, Tony McConkey, and Sid Saab, who were invited there to answer questions on legislative issues concerning our district.   

WISE claims to be a nonpartisan group that advocates support for the environment, the LGBTQ community, criminal justice reform, and tolerance, and seeks to make our communities inclusive, fair, and safe for all. In the same breath, they make it clear that they only welcome women into their group who agree with their mission, and that they stand in complete resistance to President Trump’s agenda.

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Overall, their town hall was well promoted, well attended, and the venue was perfect. That said, I would like to thank WISE for having the meeting. Through their efforts, District 33 voters were able to witness first-hand the type of negative behavior that caused progressives to lose so spectacularly in 2016.

Few things usurp influence and diminish a message quicker than whining. WISE’s event was supposed to focus on local issues. Instead, several WISE members used the platform to bemoan the election of Trump.

We get it. Progressives are devastated by Trump’s win, but it’s time to move forward. The election was seven months ago, Trump has been active for more than 100 days, and the hay, as they say, is in the barn. If progressives really want to change things, they should start by admitting they got shellacked, recognize why, develop new messaging and candidates, and then get back in the game.

Whining takes energy, but it’s completely unproductive. Doing it at the town hall distracted from any meaningful dialogue and reduced the discourse into the kind of groveling children make when told to go to bed.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. WISE aligns with the “resistance” movement. While this moniker may be new (it’s not), the tactics they employ are the same we’ve seen for years. These include rioting, censoring conservative speech on college campuses, vilifying anyone who disagrees with their agenda and, of course, disrupting town hall meetings – even their own.

When will progressives learn that the resistance is a losing movement? Republicans now control the White House, the Senate, the House, most local legislatures, and more that 30 governorships including Maryland’s, where Governor Larry Hogan’s approval rating continues to soar. Republicans hold these positions, because voters – many of whom were Democrats – were fed-up with progressive policies and antics. WISE, however, is doubling-down on them.

While it was billed innocuously as a nonpartisan event, the town hall was an ambush. The panelists were well-prepared and obviously knew the predominantly progressive crowd would ask hostile questions, but not of this magnitude.

Every question asked by WISE members was carefully orchestrated with an emotional preamble designed to paint the panelists in a negative light and back them into a corner. These rants were often so convoluted that it was difficult to discern from them an actual question – which were flat out bizarre at times. For example, the panelists were asked how they felt about and if they supported conversion therapy for homosexuals. Yes, seriously.

WISE members didn’t restrict their invective to the panelists at Woods. On several occasions, they attacked County Councilman Michael Peroutka, who wasn’t there, couldn’t defend himself, and therefore wasn’t able to clarify anything he may or may not have said.

At the beginning of the event, WISE proposed the rules for engagement and explained that all participants were to follow WISE’s organizational principles of diversity, inclusion, and respect. Evidently, these rules didn’t apply to WISE members.

What makes a political group influential, be it progressive or conservative, is its commitment to living the principles they espouse; live otherwise and their values ring hollow. Noticeably absent from WISE’s panel were Republican women.

Granted, there are no Republican women Delegates from District 33 at this time. The debate, however, was not limited to specific legislation. If WISE wants to discuss issues in general at their town halls, especially issues that are important to women, then women with opposing opinions ought to be invited as panelists.

That would be the fair and inclusive thing to do, no?

Matthew Pugh is a member of the Republican State Central Committee. He does not represent the collective views of the committee.

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