This is such a fool’s errand. All those lovely, naive people schlepping around in front of Sen. Marco Rubio’s Tampa office, deluded in the charming notion that a public servant might actually have an interest in communing with his constituents.
What these very frustrated citizens need to know is that they will likely never get any face time with the Sammy Glick of Florida politics. Think of it this way. Rubio, R-Boo!, is Joseph Heller’s real-life incarnation of his Catch-22 Major Major of the U.S. Senate. You can only see him when he’s not in the office.
For the past couple of weeks, groups of citizens have been assembling on the sidewalk of Rubio’s West Kennedy Boulevard office fruitlessly attempting to arrange a meeting with their senator to petition their government for redress of grievances. It’s a cornerstone of American democracy, and lately has become all the rage.
They’ve been met with locked doors, unanswered phones, unreturned emails and threats of arrest for trespassing in an effort to communicate with their elected senator. For the most part, the demonstrators have wanted to voice their opposition to Rubio’s votes to confirm billionaire Betsy DeVos, a woman with zero experience in public education, to become education secretary, and former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to become secretary of state. Seems fair enough — unless you’re Rubio.
One of those representing an apparent risk to Rubio has been 38-year-old Melissa Gallagher, the owner of a natural health business, who has come armed and dangerous with her 16-month-old son, Gabriel. Who knows what the kid is hiding in his onesie? A copy of the Constitution, perhaps?
“Yeah, I’m a total threat with a kid in a stroller,” Gallagher laughed. Gallagher had never been politically active until recently, if you don’t count the time in 1981 when her father, a striking air traffic controller, hoisted his 2-year-old daughter on his shoulder during a demonstration.
Gallagher and the others assembled at Rubio’s office merely wanted an in-person explanation for the senator’s votes. But they couldn’t get through on the phone to the office. Oddly enough, when Gallagher was granted a brief meeting with a Rubio staffer she never heard the office phone ring. But after she left the meeting, Gallagher attempted to place a call — busy signal.
Gallagher has been joined on the ramparts by Amy Rouse Ousley, 46, who runs a skincare studio. She too had never protested anything. “This is the most active I’ve been,” she said, moved to act because of what she sees as President Donald Trump’s “lack of respect for the office.” And she scoffed at a fake-news meme that she and others are simply “paid liberal critics.”
Rebecca Myers, a 36-year-old aerospace engineer and marching newbie, fared no better. “I left messages, but no one ever called back or, even worse, the voice mailbox was full every day.”
Adding insult to indignity, a number of those protesting subsequently received a campaign fundraising solicitation from the senator. That was a bum’s rush too much for Myers, who responded, “I tried not to be too sarcastic with it, but it is frustrating to be ignored by someone who will represent you for the next six years.”
Myers wrote back to Rubio’s office suggesting if he is that hard up for money, perhaps he should panhandle from DeVos, After all, DeVos previously gave Rubio, R-Red Badge of Porridge, $100,000. So now we at least know how much a U.S. Senate vote is worth.
“I go to your Tampa office. I try to make an appointment. The cops are called without me saying one word. How am I to meet with your staff if the door is locked, they don’t return emails, no one answers the phone and the voice box is full? Try doing your job,” Myers wrote.
To date, no meeting with Rubio has been scheduled with the Tampa constituents. In the meantime, all three women quickly acknowledged their very public protests in front of Rubio’s office have sparked a renewed sense of patriotism within them.
“I have found I love my country more than ever before,” Ousely said. “I’m fighting for my country.”
Myers, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, agreed. “The activism we are using now to exercise our freedoms is an extension of that patriotism; I am living and breathing democracy.”
You could say the reclusive Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Greta Garbo, has actually done his country a service.
He’s awakened a sleeping Gabriel.
© 2017 Tampa Bay Times