Despite being a self-righteous poser and a carpetbagger, Rep. Tom McClintock deserves credit.
Unlike some of his congressional colleagues, the Elk Grove Republican, whose district is nowhere near Elk Grove, is game enough to continue presiding over town hall meetings where he is the piñata.
But instead of candy pouring out of McClintock when his constituents hit him – with tough questions and heartbreaking testimonials – intolerance pours out of him instead.
In this way, McClintock is an embodiment of democracy in the age of Trump. Instead of ducking and hiding he shows up and takes questions, which nets him high marks for fulfilling the most basic role of a legislator.
But beyond that, McClintock represents only those who identify with his ideology – and no one else. He seems impervious to shame, and incapable of publicly expressing compassion to those who don’t fall within the margins of his rigidly held beliefs.
At a town hall meeting in El Dorado Hills on Saturday, McClintock told a young woman that she should go back to where she came from – El Salvador – even though she was brought to the U.S. as a child and raised here. He told a pair of gay teenagers that their concerns were not his.
Democrats got skewered for practicing “identity” politics – racial diversity, marriage equality, transgender rights, immigration reform – when losing to Trump last November. Trump supporters posit that defeat as an ideological pendulum swinging back toward traditional American values that reject the grievances of minority groups. That Trump lost the popular vote is an inconvenient truth dismissed by Trumpian conventional wisdom.
At gatherings with his constituents, McClintock doesn’t shy away from giving faithful odes to his party’s narrow-minded, nativist policies. And perhaps as much as any legislator in America, he’s built for this kind of an ideological exercise.
He lives in Elk Grove and he shopped around until he found the perfect district for him – the 4th Congressional District, one of the most conservative in California. Stretching across 10 counties from Alpine to Fresno, voters in the 4th could probably be best described by these words: “Leave us alone.”
The only Democrat to prevail on McClintock’s turf in the last quarter century was Dianne Feinstein, who squeaked out a win in her U.S. Senate race there back in 1992. Since then? Forget it.
Interestingly, this district doesn’t seem to care if its congressional representative does anything for them so long as he or she echoes their right-of-center views. According to InsideGov, a Santa Barbara-based website that tracks the voting records of legislators, McClintock has only seen three of his bills signed into law since being elected in 2009: Two of them renamed post offices to commemorate fallen servicemen and the other moved some federal lands in El Dorado County into a trust to benefit the Shingle Springs band of Miwok.
That’s it: McClintock is not a rainmaker for his county. He’s an ideological shield.
When Sacramento Bee reporter Anita Chabria interviewed McClintock supporters at Saturday’s town hall, she met one man who told her that former President Barack Obama “hated” America. She met others who were angry because they felt their children – white children – couldn’t get into California universities.
“I want to see the Constitution continued the way the founders intended it,” McClintock supporter Jack Fraim said. “I’d like our borders and customs and language to be honored.”
Catch that? He’d like his borders and customs and language to be honored.
Our borders are not under assault, despite what McClintock and Trump allege. In fact, according to Pew Research, more Mexicans left the U.S. than came to it since the end of the Great Recession. And yet Trump bangs the drum of the border as a perilous threat to fire up his base and McClintock repeats these distortions to justify his positions.
Before more than 1,700 people at Oakridge High School on Saturday, McClintock told Doris Romero, 20, that she should return to El Salvador because she was brought to the U.S. without documentation when she was 5 years old.
It didn’t matter that Romero was too young to be held responsible for the decision of her family. It didn’t matter that she had built a life for herself in the U.S. and identifies as an American. Or that she has been under a protective status under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“I was raised with American morals, and I know to do the right thing,” she said to McClintock. “I want to know what you are going to do for ... the people that didn’t have a choice (in coming to America) and for the people who love this country and respect it.”
McClintock’s answer? “There is a legal path to citizenship, and it’s followed by millions of immigrants.”
Left unsaid by the congressman was how a failure to pass immigration reform effectively blocked people like Romero from achieving legal status. Left unsaid was how many American employers happily hire undocumented immigrants and profit from it. American banks gladly take the business of undocumented immigrants who wire money home to the tune of billions of dollars. American federal coffers are bolstered by the taxes collected from the paychecks of undocumented workers.
Left unsaid is how immigrants like Romero dream about becoming American and contributing positively to society.
No matter. McClintock maintained a rigid line of ideology on immigration and other issues. It’s what he was sent to Washington to do and what he seems to enjoy doing at his town hall meetings. He’s protecting the “identity politics” of those who elected him. Those who disagree with him get his time, but not his consideration.
Is that democracy? Yes. Is it inspiring? No way.