Gretchen Simon and Timi Aguilar want to talk to their congressional representatives. About health care. About immigration. About women’s rights.
The women, both members of Douglas County’s Indivisible, a grassroots movement opposing President Donald Trump’s policies, also want to listen to what they have to say.
Two-way conversation is key, they said, to finding common ground.
Rep. Ken Buck, the Republican representing the 4th Congressional District — which includes Castle Rock, Parker, Lone Tree, Elbert County and much of the state’s eastern plains region —couldn’t agree more. That’s why he met Feb. 21with the women and nearly 50 others from the group to discuss the Affordable Care Act.
“I think they’re concerned,” Buck said of the Indivisibles. “I think they have a fear of issues that are happening in this country. I hope that at the end of the meeting I was able to reduce some of that fear.”
Not completely, Simon said, pointing to a lack of data and information about how the free market will provide better affordable coverage to the millions of people now covered under the ACA.
“His reassurances fell short,” she said.
But now that the door is open, Aguilar said, “we look forward to a continued conversation with him on issues including immigration, education and other topics...”
National movement finds local voices
Indivisible is a nationwide grassroots movement that calls to mind the Tea Party’s resistance to President Barack Obama’s administration. Across the country, the organization has been tied to tumultuous town halls experienced by Republican members of Congress. Some Republican leaders have accused anti-Trump protesters, such as Indivisible members, of being paid to disrupt the meetings. Indivisible members have denied that.
To ensure a civil discourse, Buck set some ground rules before his meeting. “I think it’s unfair to expect a member of Congress to show up to a meeting and be yelled at,” he said.
He capped the meeting at 50 members from Douglas County Indivisible CD4. Indivisible members agreed to provide a focus by limiting conversation to the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s not a forum for whining or ranting,” Simon said.
Above all, the group hopes to facilitate positive dialogue, Simon and Aguilar said.
Before joiningIndivisible, the women were searching for an outlet for their voices.
Simon, 65, a lifelong Democrat fromCastle Rock who participated in the anti-Vietnam marches in the 1970s, was looking for an organized band of activists. The Indivisible online guide for “resisting the Trump agenda” piqued her interest.
Aguilar, 48, of Castle Pines, had previously volunteered with Get Out the Vote and Democrat campaigns.
The two women participated in the Women’s March on Denver in January, an event that drew more than 100,000 near the Capitol building to advocate for women’s rights, gender equality and other social issues. They emphasized that for them it wasn’t an “anti-Trump” march.
But “everyone wanted actionable steps outside of that,” Aguilar said.
The women found their answer in Douglas County Indivisible CD4, along with more than 280 other men and womenincluding Carolyn Williamson, 62, a lifelong Republican living in Parker. During the presidential campaign, “Never Trump” signs dotted her yard.
His election “appalled” her, she said. “I feel like we need the Republicans to stand up against this new regime.”
Better communication is key
The volunteer group, the women said, devises plans to make their voices reach Washington. They write letters. They make phone calls. They set up meetings with their members of Congress.
Their goal, Aguilar said, is civil discussion on their top issues, which include immigration, women’s rights, the Affordable Care Act, the environment and Trump’s cabinet nominees.
Besides meeting with Buck, six members also met recently with a staff member from U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s office. The Colorado Republican couldn’t be reached for an interview, but issued an email statement thanking constituents who contact him with thoughts and concerns.
“Their feedback allows me to do my job best and develop legislative solutions that benefit Coloradoans,” Gardner wrote.
Buck agreed. Such dialogue, he said, also allows him to address misconceptions about the Republican stance on health care.
Republicans won’t repeal Obamacare without a timely plan to replace it, he said. He doesn’t believe millions of people will become uninsured if Obamacare goes away. And, he added, Republicans do care about people with pre-existing conditions.
“I was trying to convey that the Republican majority in the House and the Senate are very concerned about providing good, quality health care,” he said.
The women would like to see more Republicans speak out against Trump’s actions the way Sen. John McCain from Arizona has.
But they agree with Buck that the meetings so far are a positive step in the right direction.
“It’s convenient for people to complain about what’s happening,” Aguilar said. “But it takes time and effort to engage with your representatives.”
Buck knows he didn’t leave the Indivisible meeting with many votes. But he does believe he left with members’ respect.
“The main conclusion that we all drew,” Buck said, “is we need to have better communication.”