Congress is on spring break — I know, hide the kids — and that means it’s time for town hall meetings between House and Senate members and their constituents.
Two such gatherings happened in our area Wednesday. Rep. Kevin Yoder met with folks in Overland Park in the morning. Two hours later, Sen. Claire McCaskill chatted with voters across the state line in Kansas City.
The Republican in Kansas and the Democrat in Missouri disagreed on some issues, as you might expect. McCaskill endorsed Obamacare, Yoder promised to repeal it. Yoder bragged about passing a balanced federal budget, McCaskill called it “phony baloney.” McCaskill wants federal transportation money for mass transit, Yoder wants highway spending only.
But there were some intriguing areas of semi-agreement. Both worry new environmental regulations will drive up energy costs. Both are less worried about the environment.
Both want more money for research in treating Alzheimer’s disease. Both think defense spending has dipped too low. Both say they want more transparency in campaign donations.
Some of these agreements are a political illusion: Yoder and McCaskill want to seem more moderate than their actual voting records. And the situation plays a part too. It’s easy to support Alzheimer’s research when the predominant color in the audience is gray.
Some agreements seem real enough, though. And that’s cause for optimism.
The usual handful of cranky ideologues was on hand Wednesday — the “fair tax, kill the IRS, Obama’s a socialist” set — but most of the questions were practical and serious, aimed at solving problems, not making more tired philosophic points.
And the two members of Congress answered in kind. Their responses were sharpest when responding to concrete concerns, wandering only when long-rehearsed talking points bubbled to the surface.
Both Yoder and McCaskill want to “strengthen” Medicare, for example. Well, OK, but they want to do it in very different ways. They may want to be more clear about that in the future.
Still, even a hint that Republicans and Democrats might scratch out some common ground seems like a good thing. And let’s give Yoder and McCaskill credit for holding town halls and taking unscreened questions. That’s also good.
Sure, there was gray on display Wednesday, but I also saw green. It’s springtime grass, emerging from the wasteland that has defined national politics for almost a decade.