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Posted 5/16/17 (Tue)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Disagreeing with a person politically is one thing. But being downright disrespectful and outwardly aggressive or violent toward someone who has a different opinion on a subject is quite another thing.
A case in point.
Last week, as reported by the Bismarck Tribune, U.S. Representative Kevin Cramer held a town hall meeting in Mandan to discuss many issues affecting North Dakota residents, one of which was the House of Representatives recent passage of the American Health Care Act, which would replace portions of Obamacare. As one of the House members who voted in favor of this politically-charged bill, Cramer was taken to task by some attending the town hall meeting.
Challenging our elected officials, be they serving at the local, state or federal level, on how their positions on matters affecting their constituents and how they vote, is a right of the electorate. Our elected officials need to know how the people that they represent feel about the issues. And town hall meetings, such as many of the state’s congressional delegation routinely hold, is a unique opportunity for citizens to meet with their elected officials and to share their concerns.
But what happened at last week’s town hall meeting in Mandan took political disagreement in North Dakota to a whole new level as one attendee, who disagreed with Cramer’s responses, had to be escorted from the meeting after he became angry and attempted to put money in Cramer’s pocket. And a second individual, who was an apparent Cramer supporter, was also removed from the meeting after grabbing the first individual.
Is what we saw in Mandan an extension of the “in your face” confrontations that seem to be happening elsewhere across the United States as both Republicans and Democrats try to discredit and diminish each other?
One would like to think that what happened in Mandan was just a simple disagreement that went wrong.
We need our elected officials to feel welcome to come “home” and to listen to both sides of the issues. For without that free exchange of ideas, all of us as well as the democratic process will suffer.