An angry, sometimes hostile crowd of about 75 of Congressman Erik Paulsen's constituents gathered at his Eden Prairie office to express serious concern over his support of drastic budget cuts proposed by the House Republicans.
The overflow crowd was a broad cross section of voters from his district representing a range of ages. There were some supporters, but most expressed extreme displeasure with the way Paulsen and the political parties are facing the crisis.
One constituent saw the meeting as a microcosm of what is happening in Washington.
"It's kind of hard to have a productive dialog or conversation in a more confrontational environment … And I think that part of the thing is , we're kind of seeing this in Congress right now. Because a lot of people aren't willing to even listen to other points of views even though they know we have to meet some kind of kind of compromise. But that's kind of where we're at. And I think what we have to do is find some way around that so that we can work together.
Representative Paulsen was not present for the meeting, instead sending a staffer to talk to the crowd.The UpTake was not allowed to tape the what happened but we were allowed to stay and talked to people after the meeting.
Few answers, lots of anger
"People asked a bunch of questions and we didn't get much for answers" said one attendee after the meeting.
Several noted Paulsen's staff member was new (he has been with Paulsen only since January) and didn't have many answers. The staff member said he didn't know what ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) was even though Paulsen is known to be associated with it. ALEC is notorious for writing many right-wing bills that have been passed in state legislatures in a cookie cutter fashion.
Some were upset that Paulsen held a tele-town hall meeting right while President Obama was speaking Monday night, trying to draw them away from the TV set to talk in an environment where Paulsen can control the conversation, yet Paulsen was not willing to show up today to face the angry crowd.
"It's always interesting that we never seem to be able to talk to Representative Paulsen. He's always gone or doing something else and yet we're all his constituents," said one of the attendees. "He chooses not to be available and this is time for him to hear what our views are and our concerns and it's really becoming a tragic time in our country's history and he's part of that."
When the anger subsided a bit, most were pleading for balanced, non-ideological solutions including restore more tax fairness with increased upper income taxes, stopping many of the federal studies plus balanced budget cuts including the Wars and subsidies to a variety of businesses. The threats to Social Security and Medicare were a major part of the source of anger.
"It's deplorable what our country is right now", said one man after the meeting. " We're being controlled by a fringe element of a political party. It's absolutely disgusting and we're going to go down the tubes here economically very shortly if that rest of that party continues to kow-tow to that minority."
Others missed their former Republican representative Jim Ramstad. "I mean Ramstad was a moderate and I don't think he would have supported half the stuff that this guy Paulsen does. I was a Republican all my life until Bush. When Bush came along I cant'… my bumper sticker says 'Too poor to be a Republican. Too smart to be a Democrat' And so I joined the coffee party."
This meeting was organized by MoveOn.org in cooperation with a number of other volunteer groups and was part of a nation-wide series of meetings on this day at all Congressional Offices.