Rep. Jason Chaffetz dismissed the opposition he encountered at his recent town hall as coming from paid, out-of-state protesters. I’m from Provo and drove up there with a friend, but we weren’t able to get in because the auditorium was already full. As far as we could tell, the people around us were from Utah, but it is naturally impossible to know for sure where everyone in the crowd was from.
There are some things we can know for sure, though. Here in Utah County, Rep. Chaffetz got 82.4 percent of the vote. By contrast, Donald Trump only got 50.2 percent of the vote. In other words, a huge chunk of Chaffetz's supporters did not vote for Donald Trump — even when the alternative was Hillary Clinton or long-shot candidate Evan McMullin. Still others voted for Trump, but with serious reservations.
It should not surprise Rep. Chaffetz that many of his constituents are uncomfortable with Trump’s disrespect for the other branches of government, problematic conflicts of interests, cozy relationship with Putin and Russia, immaturity and carelessness in the execution of his duties, disdain for facts and truth, horrible comments about women, indifference to religious freedom for all, callousness to the plight of refugees and general lack of integrity. My 90-year-old grandmother — a dedicated, lifelong Republican — is beside herself with concern for the republic.
Yes, the crowd inside and outside the town hall was frustrated and unhappy. Perhaps that’s because we can’t get through when we try to call his office to discuss our concerns. His phones are busy and his voicemail box is full. And when we are able to talk to one of his staff members about our Trump-related worries, they tell us things like, “Well, I’m not sure what to tell you." That’s the response that I got to my respectfully stated distress.
Chaffetz’s casual approach to Utahns' concerns about Trump reflects a shocking lack of awareness about how people around here feel on the topic. It is especially galling that he has the extra responsibility to hold Trump accountable as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and chooses not to carry out that responsibility.
Perhaps Chaffetz's time in Washington has gotten to him. Perhaps he thinks being soft on Trump will advance his career. Perhaps he doesn't think that reflecting Utah's unique perspectives on Trump is part of his job.
I suggest he pay attention to the most vigorous chant of the evening: “We are Utah — you work for us!”
Jessica Preece lives in Provo.