Guest Commentary: Be Bolder, Representative Garamendi

Screen shot from video of Congressman Garamendi’s Town Hall Meeting Sunday night in Davis

By Roberta Millstein

I have heard mixed reactions to Representative John Garamendi’s overflowing town hall event on Sunday evening.  Some were pleased with his liberal approach, especially with respect to immigration, which is understandably on people’s minds. These people praised his voting record and were happy to see his emphasis on eliminating gerrymandering and voter suppression as long term strategies.

Others were frustrated that he seemed always to stop just short of where he needed to be.  I count myself in the second camp.

I think Representative Garamendi did fine under the Obama administration and would have done find under a Clinton administration, even if his votes and actions would not always have been what I wanted.  But under a Trump administration, his approach is inadequate for the task at hand.

As Senator Richard Blumenthal has so eloquently stated, “Our nation is careening toward a constitutional crisis,” with President Trump’s foot on the accelerator.  Trump has shown a “profound disrespect for an independent judiciary and the Constitution”; “his comments are an attempt to destroy the courts’ credibility and capacity to serve as a check on lawless executive action.”

He has also show a complete disinterest in working with Democrats.

These are not times for small actions – speeches on the floor of the House, posts to Facebook, legislation that nibbles around the edges.  These are times for bold actions.

Here are the questions that I wanted to ask Representative Garamendi, but was not able to (he had far more questioners than he could respond to):

“Representative Garamendi, given the very real threats to our democracy, what are you prepared to do beyond the sorts of things that you have been doing already?  Will you stand and protest with us?  Will you band together with other Democrats and issue big, bold statements?  (And no, the weekly C-SPAN presentations you mentioned do not count!).

“Will you think outside of the box, as Representative Jerrold Nadler did when he called for a ‘resolution of inquiry’ to obtain information relating to any criminal or counterintelligence investigation into Trump, any investment made by a foreign power or agent thereof in Trump’s businesses, Trump’s plans to distance himself from his business empire, and any Trump-related examination of federal conflict of interest laws or the emoluments clause of the Constitution?

“Note that Representative Nadler has made the national news with this action, so it is possible, contra to what you suggested at the town hall, to break through to the media with a message different from Trump’s own.  Do you support what Representative Nadler has done?  If his measure comes to the floor of the House, will you vote in favor of it?”

I wish I had gotten answers to these questions.  Perhaps you will still see fit to answer them, or perhaps to answer them through your actions, which would be even better.

On Sunday, I heard instead an extended explanation about the limitations you face as a Democrat in a Republican-controlled Congress.

Everything you say is true.  We want you to fight anyway.  We are there to fight with you.  But we need you to be bolder.  Be bolder for us, Representative Garamendi.

I do not think I exaggerate when I say that our Democracy depends on you and other members of Congress doing exactly that.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Robert Canning

    I guess I have mixed feelings about asking Garamendi to be “bolder.” Behind me at the town hall yesterday was a woman who kept yelling at him.  She yelled “Single Payer.” She kept grumbling about him throughout the time I spent listening (I got too hot and too frustrated and went outside to listen after an hour.) A friend told me she called him a “coward” toward the end of the meeting.

    Yes, Garamendi is a dependable Democratic vote in the House, and yes, he did lecture us like in civics class sometimes.  Maybe we should have a new congressman for the 3rd district. Maybe we should have a firebrand like some people want.  I doubt we are going to find that person in the next 18 months. And I’m not sure how many people in the audience know what his district looks like. It’s unlikely his district could flip to Republican (he won in 2016 with over 57% of the vote), but like many districts he has a VERY diverse constituency.

    Anyway…maybe we need to start looking for someone younger (he’s 72) to fill the seat – someone who will be that firebrand congressman from rural/suburban California. I don’t think he is going to shed his moderate/liberal clothes anytime soon and I’m OK with that. Those of us who are involved with our government need to keep working, make him aware of how concerned we are (he seems to share this from what I saw), and get him to sign on to things that make some noise.  But I don’t think he’s going to become the firebrand some people want.

    1. Roberta Millstein

      Robert, thanks for your reply.  You may be right, and in fact, I thought the same thing myself; he is unlikely to change.  But since he will be our representative for the next 18 months, I thought I’d give it a try.  Either he changes (even a little bit), and that’s all to the good, or he doesn’t, and we very soon start thinking about finding a replacement.  I don’t think it will be too hard to find someone.  The bigger challenge is, as you say, getting him to win across our diverse district.  That will require the engagement of a lot of people.  So again, good to start thinking about all of these things as soon as possible.


  2. Tia Will

    I am an incrementalist. In 2008, I supported HRC until the tide turned towards Obama. My reasoning was that Obama was too much of a “firebrand”, had not gained the experience or respect from his peers necessary to understand how to work “across the aisle”….and I feared that the country remained more biased than it appeared against those who do not look and talk ( Hillbilly Elegy) like us.  This concern has been born out in the birther movement and other displays of disrespect for President Obama that helped to carry the current POTUS into office. Although to be fair, the current POTUS seems to disrespect or disregard everyone who does not kowtow to him.

    To those who believe that had Bernie Sanders prevailed, we would have won the White House, I suspect that you do not understand how the inevitable branding of him as a socialist or communist would have prevented his election.

    To those who attack those who are with us philosophically and legislatively ( Garamendi) by yelling out “coward” while he was trying to speak, my advice would be to run for office yourself. Garamendi is by no means a coward and has dedicated much of his adult life to fairly representing a very diverse district. While I also would like to see him take more direct and attention getting stances, I feel that some of the disrespect shown to him last night was completely unwarranted and in the long run counter productive.  We are indeed stronger together. I would urge that young woman to channel her own energy away from the safety of name calling from the crowd, to leading on those issues about which she is passionate.

    1. David Greenwald

      On the other hand, while I shared that view of Bernie last year, I think it missed critical waves in the electorate and in many ways, Hillary was ultimately a mismatch for mood of a significant part of the country. Of course, there are some odd occurrences that contributed to her loss and perhaps Bernie would have done better keeping those critical voters than Hillary did.

      Nevertheless, there are lessons in the tea party movement that progressives should heed – energy, and the ability to inflict electoral losses on mainstream Republicans. I’m not as Keith put it the other week, admiring the tea party, only noting it was effective.

      Fascinating article on CNN comparing the Individisible Movement to the Tea Party:

    2. Roberta Millstein

      Tia, I think you and I disagree about incrementalism.  I think incrementalism was the right strategy for 1990s – it allowed the Dems to regain power.  I think the strategy was becoming less effective by Obama’s time and limited what he could achieve.  (I don’t see him as all that much different from Clinton, policy-wise).  By the time of this election, the economy had changed and the mood had changed (as David describes in his comment above) and incrementalism was never going to succeed, or at best, have a very difficult time of it.  Now that Trump is in office it is an utter non-starter, a grain of sand against a tidal wave.  (Sorry for the water metaphor, Oroville – hope you all are doing OK).

      As for the person yelling, there is no excuse for that.  (Ok, I may have yelled some things too: mea culpa).  But the format was utterly frustrating and the room not up for the task.  It felt like it was the first town hall he’d ever done.  And it seemed he didn’t know his audience – that he didn’t need to explain the problems to us, we already know what they are, what we are looking for is answers.  If things had been set up so that more people had gotten to ask questions and gotten faster answers, I think it would have gone better.

        1. Roberta Millstein

          David, yes, I know that.  I just meant that I was surprised that there wasn’t better coordination of the microphones.  Even in a better room passing around a mic by hand is awkward unless the next speaker is already ready to go when the first speaker finishes.  It’s better to have standing microphones that people line up behind. (Again, I realize that the room isn’t really set up to handle that).  And he could certainly read the mood of the audience, but his reaction seemed to be to talk longer rather than shorter.

  3. Nancy Price

    I would have congratulated Rep Garamendi for his stance against the TPP and now that Trump has pulled out of it, will he speak up on renegotiating NAFTA so we actually really do get a better fair trade deal for people and the planet. Will he fight hard against the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA being negotiated in secret among 50 countries and maybe nearing completion) that will lead to the privatization of  all remaining public services, worse yet, greatly increased costs of all private services, and deregulation of every service you can think of that should be regulated for the health and safety of both provider and customer.

    Will he speak up for Sanctuary Cities and how will he do so?

    Will he speak up that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security must be left alone and that voucher systems are completely inadequate and just reward Wall Street?

    Will he speak up that our Veterans need the prompt and sufficient health care they deserve?

    1. Roberta Millstein

      Ha ha, it’s hilarious.  Liberals are now acting so hysterically they are turning on their own.

      There are differences of opinion within the Democratic party that were on display in the debates between Hillary and Bernie.  I think you’re seeing something like those same differences now.  But I guess that doesn’t make such good fodder for derogatory remarks.

      1. Keith O

        Oh you mean like the derogatory remarks that get thrown at Trump daily on the Vanguard?

        It was at least refreshing to see liberals turning on one of their own for a change.

        1. David Greenwald

          You’re missing the point – the divide in the left means that the progressive left is not turning on one of their own, because Garamendi is not part of the progressive movement.

  4. Linda Deos

    I attended the Garamendi Town Hall yesterday and was very impressed by the size and energy of the crowd. At times I too thought that he didn’t understand the crowd that well – e.g. comments about a woman’s looks and his “kissing” comment. I also think it’s time for him to retire to his ranch after a very long and fulfilling career in public service. Taking him on would be a very tough task for anyone – progressive or otherwise, so we may have to wait until retirement calls. Until then let’s keep him on his toes by continuing to show up at town halls and calling his office to demand he take action against so-called President trump.

      1. Don Shor

        That would be “your” President Trump.

        Speak for yourself. I assume that she used the term “so-called” in the same sense that Trump used it to refer to a federal judge. If he doesn’t respect the separation of powers, I’m not sure why he should be accorded respect.

        1. Howard P

          The “office” should be given respect even if the occupant is worthy of loathing…

          Three times in American history, ‘articles of impeachment’ have been approved… remember two of those… twice a president was ‘tried’ by the Senate… remember one of those… neither was convicted and removed from office…

          I remember when the first Catholic was elected president… when the first mixed race (Afro-American) was elected president…

          If there was a ‘line’ on whether I’ll see the first president where a bill of impeachment was approved, tried, and convicted of “high crimes and misdemeanors”, am thinking I’d only get ‘even-odds’ in Nevada… and this is only 3 weeks into the new administration… looks like there is a 50/50 chance that we’ll see “The Apprentice 2.0”, where the CEO tells his national security advisor “you’re fired!”

        2. Keith O

          If he doesn’t respect the separation of powers, I’m not sure why he should be accorded respect.

          So I guess you lost respect for Obama when he scolded the SCOTUS during his State of the Union address in 2010.

          1. Don Shor

            Why are you trolling, Keith? What satisfaction do you derive from this? It’s pretty much all you do on the Vanguard and the Enterprise.

        3. Keith O

          So it’s considered trolling if I don’t agree with you and don’t join the hate Trump group that seems to run these message boards on the Vanguard for the most part?

        4. Howard P

          Keith and Don… consider cooling jets… not helpful to real discussion… Donald J Trump is indeed the POTUS… I also perceive him as a narcissistic, self-promoting, business/politically savvy ass… he will, IMO  prove why the separation of powers thing was pretty damn smart.

          Trying to move the football forward, now that the three of us have ‘vented’, we all need to be vigilant, be informed, think, and work towards real solutions to issues… categorizing, name calling, etc., only draws delay of game penalties, IMHO.  Not particularly helpful [and no, am not accusing either of doing that directly… hell, I’ve done that… but still, I’d appreciate being told when I need to ‘cool my jets’…]

        5. Keith O

          Hi Howard, I’m not mad and there’s no problem here.  It just surprises me how I get called out when others are far more derogatory coming from the left point of view.

        6. Howard P


          Getting ‘called out’, whether right/left, or the ‘most despicable’, like me, who are a combination of somewhat ‘right’ or somewhat ‘left’, depending on the issue [and I am not a ‘compromiser’… my opinions are very deeply held], does not lead to solutions/progress…

          Your use of the term “the left”, may show what ‘team’ you’re on [yeah, traditionally ‘left’ is also called ‘sinister’, and ‘right’ is called ‘droit’], but only sets heels in… no “net gain”…

          Don’s use of the term “trolling” is either ‘over the top’ or, perhaps below the belt(?)

          C’mon folk, we are better than that… or should try to be…

          If not, we become more like “the jerk”, who says outrageous things for fun, notoriiaty and profit…

    1. Roberta Millstein

      Thanks for your comments, Linda.  I too was very impressed by the size and energy of the crowd.  I learned afterward that there were many people — perhaps over a hundred or more — who could not get in at all.  That is perhaps the best news of all: people are engaged.  Lots of us to keep him on his toes!

  5. Joe Depietro

    I was at Congressman Garamendi’s town hall yesterday.  At the very start of the meeting, Congressman Garamendi told all of us he had marched in the Women’s March on January 21, which was, in his words, the best of times in these worst of times.  So yes, he marches with us. 
    An audience member told us Congressman Garamendi had voted for the Trump agenda exactly zero percent.  I do not believe it serves us, or the country, to demand that every Democratic congressperson issue big bold statements at this point in time.  Those that do so are certainly helping.  But we also need men and women in Congress who can help Republicans gain the confidence to walk away from Trump and his agenda. Now and for the long haul it is us, We The People, who have to be loud, show up, make our voices heard, and do everything we can to elect a new Congress in 2018. 

    Congressman Garamendi told us yesterday there are four Republicans proposing a carbon tax.  That is a good thing, and it will be a good thing when the proposal gains enough bipartisan support to pass legislation and override a presidential veto.   
    Congressman Garamendi kept his commitment to hold his town hall on Sunday afternoon even while his attention was also on events happening in Oroville. 
    Congressman Garamendi spoke nationally today while appearing on the NBC Chuck Todd Meet the Press program. While his remarks centered on the Oroville Dam situation he also described and praised the strong, vocal turnout at the town hall yesterday. He highlighted the effectiveness of citizen power, encouraged it’s exercise nation wide, and reiterated his opposition to Trump agenda items such as building the wall. His appearance on the program demonstrates there are many ways of delivering strong resistance messages. I believe there are, as he said last night, many ways to march
    We can and should let Congressman Garamendi know where we stand.  But it was clear to me that he stands with us and will continue to do so.

    1. Roberta Millstein

      Joe, I guess we disagree on tactics, but I respect your point of view.   Thank you for sharing it.   I do not always agree with Representative Garamendi, but he has done and said many things that I find laudable.  I hope that came across in what I wrote above.  I’d still like him to be bolder because of the times that we find ourselves in.  Many representatives speaking and acting forcefully would be stronger than just a few.

      P.S. I would be thrilled if the carbon tax went somewhere with this Congress, although I am doubtful.

      1. Howard P

        This is not the “end of days”… like a kidney stone, this too shall pass… “drama”, like with ‘the jerk’s’ visit to UCD and Bezerkley, doesn’t help move the football forward.  We do have problems, we do not have a ‘crisis’.

        Focusing on solving problems, working on rational/measured implementation of solutions, will be much more helpful than panic, “outrage”, and/or a “the sky is falling” mentality.  As Dunning might say, trust me on this.

        1. Eric Gelber

          We do have problems, we do not have a ‘crisis’.

          Perhaps you are right. But when Chance the Gardener is in charge and the Keystone Cops are running the place, I’m not so sure.

        2. Howard P

          Below are two examples of using “bon mots”… football has not moved… there are good reasons to ‘vent’, but does not result in solutions… just saying…

        3. Eric Gelber

          there are good reasons to ‘vent’, but does not result in solutions

          Very high minded of you. But bon mots are not the obstacle to solutions. We’re dealing with ineptitude and ignorance at the highest levels of government. The solution is resistance, activism and, yes, “boldness,” on all fronts–including by our elected representatives. Just sayin’.

        4. Howard P


          The solution is resistance, activism and, yes, “boldness,” on all fronts–including by our elected representatives.

          Guess where we might differ as to time, place, manner as to the nature of resistance, activism and boldness… am seeing the Ninth Circuit as being measured, and so far, a 4-0 decision to tell the prez “NO” on his stupid/ill-advised EO  (two Republican appointees, two Democrat ones, most with unanimous confirmations)… many signs that the Republican Congress is leery of the prez, that the admin. is having signs of at least partial collapse (thinking the “you’re fired” thing may be happening for one or more ‘key’ admin. officials is likely to take place in the next couple of weeks), but think it’s a bit early to do the “go to the mattresses” thing (ala the “Godfather” franchise thing).  I stick with my kidney stone analogy, and belief that this is NOT ‘the end of times’.

          Does a bit remind me of what folk might have felt when Andrew Johnson became president after Lincoln died… metaphor is admittedly very weak…

          I still believe things/responses should be measured… for many reasons, this country is truly ‘divided’ … but focusing on the divisiveness instead of finding ‘common ground’ will not move this nation forward.  But, at the risk of belying what I just said, our prez is a ‘flaming’ idiot… but we have the tools to move forward… time, place. manner should be ‘watchwords’…


        5. Alan Miller

          like a kidney stone, this too shall pass…

          My kidney stones were a major pain in the side and had to be surgically removed, like Garamendi is and should be.

  6. Linda Deos

    My reference to “so-called” President trump is in reaction to his verbal assault on our federal judiciary. I believe that without respect for rule of law we will no longer have the checks and balances necessary to sustain our democracy. I am also waiting for Mr. trump to show respect for the office he legitimately holds.

  7. Jim Frame

    From what I saw at the town hall meeting, Garamendi doesn’t have the fire in his belly anymore, if ever he did.  I appreciate some of the things he’s done in the past, and some that he continues to do, but he’s a career politician of retirement age (and then some) who seems a little too comfortable with the “go along to get along” approach to the job.  There are times when that’s fine in a Representative, but I don’t think this is one of those times.

    2018 may well force the issue.  Trying to walk the line between his conservative rural and lefty urban constituencies may prove to be impossible.  Whether we get instead a moderate Republican or a Warren Democrat — or even an upstart third-party member — remains to be seen.

    1. Howard P

      Much truth in what you say… “get along to go along” (or vice versa) is not a good thing, ever… not just now… one must be principled, and stick to those principles…

      Yet, being a ‘fire-brand’ and/or a ‘zealot’ just “feeds the beast”… polarization is not good, except perhaps for sunglasses… my biggest fear is that polarization will lead to wild swings of the pendulum, or complete inaction/status quo… neither of which are good, IMHO…

      Overall, our greatest threat seems to be rhetoric, over thinking, acting…

      1. Roberta Millstein

        Bill Clinton gave the pendulum a shove to the right back in the 1990s and it hasn’t stopped swinging in that direction since then.  It’s now basically stuck, and only a good long “whack” will make it unstuck.  It’s so far to the right that a centrist like Obama was labelled as a radical, showing that anything can “feed the beast” if the beast is hungry enough.  Maybe what you say is true for ordinary times, but these are not ordinary times.

        1. Roberta Millstein

          Yes, rhetoric good, thinking, history bad

          I said no such thing.

          What was it that you said above?  Oh yes:

          C’mon folk, we are better than that… or should try to be…

          If not, we become more like “the jerk”, who says outrageous things for fun, notoriiaty and profit…

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