- The Washington Times - Friday, February 24, 2017

An organic movement is fighting the Republican agenda at town hall meetings across the country, a progressive group said Friday, pushing back at GOP claims that backlash against President Trump and the likely repeal of Obamacare is more “astroturf” than “grassroots.”

The Town Hall Project, which uses the internet to track when members of Congress will meet with voters in their districts, said it felt the need to “set the record straight.”

“In recent days, some have made the charge that the constituents attending these town halls in the hundreds — sometimes in the thousands — are ‘paid protesters’ and that this amazing level of civic engagement is somehow manufactured,” said Town Hall Project founder Jimmy Dahman, who worked as a field organizer for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton last year.

“This defies common sense and our own eyes and ears,” he said. “Thousands of people from the bluest parts of America to the reddest are politically engaged like never before, and they expect their representatives to take them seriously.”

Congressional Republicans have pledged to dismantle Obamacare this year, but they’ve been heckled and shouted down by liberal activists and constituents at town hall meetings across America, as they struggle to coalesce around a clear path to a better system.

Crowds have booed and hissed at Republicans who show any sign of support for Mr. Trump and his agenda at the boisterous meetings, which have gone viral online.

The backlash hearkens to the fierce tea-party opposition that Democrats faced in 2009, as they crafted Obamacare, only now the shoe is on the other foot.

Republican lawmakers have suggested that this year’s version is driven by activists shuttling in from outside their districts, rather than local voters.

Mr. Dahman said lawmakers who espouse that view will pay a price at the ballot box.

Town Hall Project has never and will never pay anyone to attend a town hall,” he said. “The very idea is completely in conflict with our values of local civic engagement. And, frankly, if any member of Congress actually believes that these mobilized citizens are not real — and that their concerns are not real — they might find someone else sitting in their chair after Election Day in 2018.”

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