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Beware of false appeals to the American people • Tennessee Lookout

Beware of false appeals to the American people • Tennessee Lookout

Beware of false appeals to the American people • Tennessee Lookout

You may have noticed the habit of American politicians of all stripes to refer to “the American people.” For some, it is almost a nervous vocal tic. If pressed on any point, they will assert with certainty and bravado that the American people embrace the position they advocate or demand the policy they support.

There is little evidence that politicians cite public opinion research or even play with a Ouija board before proclaiming the American people as the good and noble reason for their efforts.

I decided to run a test to find out what Tennessee senators and House members attribute to the “American people” through their online newsletters. I ran a search for that phrase on DCInbox.com, a full-text site for all online congressional newsletters. The results, from January through mid-June, were revealing.

The most prolific user of that phrase was Clarksville Republican Congressman Mark Green. Green used the phrase “the American people” eight times to criticize President Joe Biden’s border policies and to try to justify articles of impeachment against Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

U.S. Rep. Mark Green, pictured on Nov. 8, 2022. (Photo: Nick Fantasia)
U.S. Rep. Mark Green, pictured on Nov. 8, 2022. (Photo: Nick Fantasia)

Green took pride in introducing those articles of impeachment (which went nowhere) to the U.S. Senate. Green went so far as to say in a pompous voice: “The greatest threat to national security and the safety of the American people is Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.” Really? A greater threat than nuclear weapons proliferation, diseases with pandemic potential, global warming, terrorist cells, or Vladimir Putin’s expansionist wars and disinformation campaigns?

Additionally, Green used the phrase in messages about ID rules for illegal immigrants, the rise of Chinese nationals entering the U.S. illegally, and in opposition to student debt forgiveness. Green also cited the “American people” in a rambling article covering a murderous illegal immigrant, PRC companies, fentanyl, and DHS.

Congressman Andy Ogles of the Nashville area also wrote frequently to “the American people” in his newsletters. He criticized the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence for supporting reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Ogles said this was “a calculated attempt to scare the American people into supporting the political priorities of the deep state.”

Ogles also used the phrase in a confusing list of reasons why he voted against appropriations for fiscal year 2024. The list included bizarre references to drag shows and clothing featuring transgender bodies. He also claimed that the American people “see right through” President Biden’s recent immigration executive order.

Ogles wrote the most outrageous thing: “It is not the responsibility of the United States to permanently absorb large numbers of nationals from unstable and developing countries, and it is not in the best interest of the American people to continue to do so. In fact, any measure that allows poorly processed Haitian immigrants into our neighborhoods will lead to preventable crimes and tragedies.”

There are many things wrong with these claims, but let’s start with the crime element. A significant body of published research, including that by Stanford economist Ran Abramitzky and the libertarian Cato Institute, shows that immigrants commit fewer crimes in the United States than native-born people. Recent analyses by the Marshall Project and the New York Times found no link between undocumented immigrants and increased rates of violent or property crime in the community.

Andy Ogles, U.S. Representative for Tennessee's 5th Congressional District (Photo: John Partipilo)
U.S. Rep. Andy Ogles wrote in a newsletter to his constituents that he voted against federal funding for 2024 for “the American people.” (Photo: John Partipilo)

We must also remember our nation’s tradition of immigrants, captured in a plaque on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Emma Lazarus’ sonnet reads: “Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Send these to me, the homeless, the tempest-tossed, I lift my lamp to the golden gate!”

East Tennessee Republican Congressman Tim Burchett seemingly read the minds of the American people to demand greater transparency about unidentified aerial phenomena (aka UFOs) and the flight logs of the late Jeffrey Epstein. Middle Tennessee Congressman John Rose, also a Republican, criticized the Colorado Supreme Court and its musings about leaving insurgent, felon, and former President Donald Trump off the state ballot. Ogles criticized the idea for subverting the will of the American people.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn cited “the American people” in: her opposition to Biden’s border policies, her alarm over TikTok, her decision to block any state from using Medicaid funds for undocumented immigrants, and her demands for Epstein’s flight records.

The only Democrat in Tennessee’s federal delegation, Steve Cohen of Memphis, used the phrase very differently. He criticized the Supreme Court’s slowness in resolving Trump’s immunity claims (which have now been resolved in Trump’s favor) and the GOP’s recent false narrative about Biden’s impeachment. Cohen also referenced his trip to the U.S. Holocaust Museum and one of the exhibits’ attempt to answer the question, “What did the American people know about the threats posed by Nazi Germany to the Jewish people?”

Cohen’s historical question aside, most of our legislative delegation cannot fathom that the majority of the public is not on their side on every single issue. It is an unproductive illusion.