Taking a conservative talking point fad to extreme lengths, veteran Republican congressman Pete King referred to a local town hall event as “mob rule” when explaining his reason for not attending.
Making an offer Pete King can refuse
Speaking to local Long Island news website the Osprey, Pete King was asked to respond to the criticism that he rarely gives his constituents a chance to meet with him. The question came in the wake of an October 5th meeting of local labor workers with his Democratic opponent Liuba Grechen Shirley in Bay Shore.
“I’m not going to be part of mob rule,” he said. “[Grechen Shirley] called some meeting that she wanted me to go to and I refused to do it because the whole thing was going to become a total circus. That serves no purpose at all.”
Speaking to News Growl to verify the comment and explain its context, reporter Wilko Martínez-Cachero said in an email that he King had made the remark during a recorded phone call.
“I asked King about Grechen Shirley’s opinion that he does not meet with his constituents enough,” Martínez-Cachero explained. “He responded by discussing an example of people chasing senators down the hall at Senate, claiming that isn’t democracy. He then stated the ‘I’m not going to be a part of mob rule’ part of the quote.”
GOP goes to the mattresses
Coined in the wake of the confirmation hearing of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Republican leaders have lately been referring to any gathering of their opponents, peaceful or not, as “mob rule.”
On October 7th CNN alone recorded seven different prominent Republicans using the term to characterize their opponents. This included Senator Chuck Grassley, who said, “I hope we can say no to mob rule by voting to confirm Kavanaugh.” Utah Senator Orin Hatch chose a variation on the theme by describing Democrats as “a paid mob trying to prevent senators from doing the will of their constituents.”
By criticizing the tactics and demeanor of political opponents, whether deserved or not, Republican lawmakers have found an easy way to dodge discussing any actual issues.
Representative Pete King has taken the tactic to another level, however. Instead of using the term to dismiss unwanted arguments, Pete King appears to be deploying the “mob rule” term to avoid even talking to his constituents.
Grechen Shirley: “We’re not a mob”
In a statement issued following the story in the Osprey, Grechen Shirley denounced King’s casual disregard for meeting his constituents face to face:
“Peter King showed Long Islanders exactly what he thinks of us when he called our town halls ‘mob rule.’ We’re not a mob — we’re parents facing skyrocketing healthcare costs. We’re neighbors worried about rising taxes. We’re students with piles of school loans.
“We deserve a Congress member who listens to Long Islanders instead of calling us names.”
Whether or not Pete King alienates his voters by referring to them as a mob, dodging vote engagement is never a good sign for any campaign. In New York State alone there are recent precedents of incumbent congressmen being ousted once they start refusing to engage fully with their constituencies.
Most famously, fellow downstate congressman and Democratic political heavyweight Joe Crowley declined to attend a debate in the Bronx ahead of his June primary. A week later he suffered one of the most celebrated upsets in recent political history when outsider Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez handed him an embarrassing defeat.
Could Liuba Grechen Shirley, once a distant outsider, be about to unleash another New York political earthquake? The Cook Report still lists the race as “likely Republican,” but a complacent incumbent is always more vulnerable than he or she appears on paper.
Congressman Pete King was invited to contribute to this article but did not respond to our enquiries.