SANDWICH, Ill. — On Wednesday morning, as his tinted black bus pulled into Randy Hultgren’s congressional district, President Obama told residents that Republicans like Hultgren must be willing to raise taxes to reduce the deficit.
A few hours and 90 miles away, Hultgren's own constituents had picked up the message, repeatedly hectoring the freshman congressman at a town hall meeting to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
"We have clear information that . . . tax cuts, especially to the super rich, has not increased any more jobs," one man told him. "I want to know under what conditions you would be willing to consider increasing taxes, especially on those who can afford it?"
I just have one question for you tonight," said another. "Did you sign Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes?"—referring to the promise that has been signed by most congressional Republicans, including Hultgren.
"Don't you have the confidence in your own ability in Congress to make up your own mind? You need Grover Norquist to tell you?" the man continued.
It is a scene that has been repeated at town hall meetings across the country this August as Democrats make a concerted effort to use this month’s congressional recess to change a national narrative on taxes.
Okay, so the question is, is this a grassroots, bubbling up kind of thing, or have establishment Democrats really internalized public opinion on this issue? Maybe a little of both, and that's where the encouraging part comes in.
Democrats dubbed their efforts "Accountability August," targeting vulnerable Republicans through radio ads, billboards and phone banks in an effort to convince voters that the GOP wants to save tax breaks for millionaires and subsidies for oil companies at the expense of Medicare.
But a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee insisted that the town hall reaction has not been coordinated. "People are responding because they are outraged about the priorities," said Jesse Ferguson, DCCC spokesman. "The president and congressional leadership have made sure that those are well-known. But the response is stemming from constituents."
So they are paying attention. Now they need to act. The grassroots has done its part, sending the message. So now elected Democrats have to do theirs, and fight for real "shared sacrifice."