To the editor:
The Tewksbury Area Indivisible, a bipartisan group which has grown from 30 to more than 90 members during the past two weeks, participated in both of U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance's (R-NJ) town halls at Raritan Valley Community College last week.
The group's objective was to challenge the congressman's voting record, which has moved away from his moderate conservative base toward the extremist policies of the right, and to assess his current views on the Trump administration's policies.
Of primary concern were the future of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), immigration, women's health, first amendment rights, public education funding, threats from Russia, gun control and environmental issues.
First, TAI members would like to commend Rep. Lance for responding to the petition signed by over 1,500 constituents asking for the town halls. He showed admirable courage compared with all the other New Jersey Republican representatives who refused to meet with their voters.
At times during the town hall exchange Rep. Lance did seem to hold a more moderate position than the extremist Trump administration, such as his professed support for the free press and his support for further sanctions on Russia.
Lance, vulnerable in 2018, faces the Trump storm | Moran
However, many of Rep. Lance's responses were cautious equivocations and he was unwilling to take a clear stance against the administration, even when he seems to diverge from some of their policies.
For example, even though he said he supported the free press, he did not denounce President Donald Trump's constant attacks on the press or the falsehoods coming from the president himself (Lance coyly referred to these lies as "misstatements," which drew a forceful condemnation from the audience).
Similarly, when pressed by an audience member who was a teacher about his commitment to funding public school education, Lance equivocated when he said he would not support funneling "significant" funds to a voucher system. Just exactly how much is "significant"?
Of even greater concern than these equivocations was that many of his statements disclosed ultra-conservative positions that aligned with the extremist Trump agenda. In a round-table review held at the Oldwick General Store, TAI members expressed their worries.
Rolf Margenau from Tewksbury commented about both women's health and gun control.
"In continually seeking to defund Planned Parenthood, Lance expresses both his disregard for women's (many of them poor) health and confirms his pro-life belief. That is not my position but he is entitled to his opinion.
"What I don't understand is how a pro-lifer refuses to endorse even the simplest life-saving gun control. Over 110,000 people are involved in gun violence each year and over 33,000 die. More than seventy percent of Americans favor some form of gun control. Yet, Lance won't even let people with mental illness be subject to background checks. It's OK to protect the unborn but not to help avoid killing tens of thousands from gun shots? That seems hypocritical to me."
Thinking about the environment, another TAI member puzzled over Lance's contradictory voting record.
How is it that Lance finally opposes the PennEast pipeline because some of it will run across Preserved Farmland in District 7, but it is fine to proceed with the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines?
Canadian voters refused to approve the XL line going to Vancouver so the Canadians want to ship their tar sands oil down the entire US to refiners in Texas who will sell the oil to China.
Native Americans made a valiant stand against environmental degradation by Dakota Access and may yet thwart Trump in court. How is a pipeline across Preserved Farmland different from a pipeline across ancestral native American lands and under the Missouri River? I wonder if Lance will change his mind if Trump decides to approve Penn East.
While TAI commends Rep. Lance for holding town halls and speaking directly with his constituents, his shift toward the extremist agenda of the Trump administration is troubling. The TAI is resolved to monitor carefully their congressman's record of voting and speaking and to inform their growing membership and District 7 voters how Rep. Lance's activities influence their lives.
Please contact the TAI at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website for more information.
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