An Open Letter To Representative Kavanagh

Posted by Bob Lord

Dear Representative Kavanagh,

It's not often that elected representatives comment on blog posts, so I was surprised to see comments purporting to be from you to AzBlueMeanie's recent post, Arizona GOP Doubles Down on NRA's Idiotic Proposal. If those were not your comments but those of one impersonating you, go ahead and disregard the remainder of this letter. If they were your comments, I must tell you that I'm utterly perplexed that you would ask a blogger "what is your proposal," when the blogger never purported to have a proposal, then react to those replying to your comments with this: 

I sense a lot of hostility
here in response to my simple question meant to understand the left's position,
especially regarding serious mental illness and gun violence. Forget I ever
asked and reached out for dialogue. Thank God you people don't like guns.

statement, coming from an elected official, is stunning on several levels.

First, if you're going to "reach out" and ask questions to understand
"the left's" position, the comment section of a local blog is not the
place to go. Although we've reported on this issue over the past few weeks,
none of us ever have purported to be experts on gun policy. There are
experts, both local and national, to whom your question, if truly asked for the
purpose of "understanding," would have been better directed. There
also are elected officials, mostly Democrats but some Republicans, to whom you
could have directed your question. 

your job as a representative is not to represent the gun industry or "the
right," but to represent your constituents, including those on "the left." Your statement suggests strongly you don't fully grasp that concept. 

the phrasing of your initial question, if truly intended to "reach out for
dialogue," was inept coming from an elected official. Your role here would
be to encourage people to speak to you, not to challenge them. So if you really
sought "understanding," it would have been more appropriate to ask something like "I understand you're not happy with Mr. Horne’s proposal, but which
proposals do you consider most promising? As your representative, I’m of course
exploring all possible solutions.” 

to say “forget I ever asked and reached out for dialogue” is a statement that
an elected representative never should make. It suggests that you consider
yourself to have been doing something extraordinary reaching out to your
constituents. No, that’s your job! By saying “forget I ever asked and reached
out for dialogue” you are saying “I don’t like this job anymore, so I’m going to stop performing it.” 

if you had read the replies to your comment without letting your ego distract you, you would have
seen that there were references to proposals. For example, Bess referred you to
Australia as an example of effective gun policy, and Serious Shade referred to
other posts containing constructive proposals. So, if you truly were interested
in “understanding” you could have disregarded the comments you considered
hostile and focused instead on the information you purport to have been
seeking. Instead, you did the opposite. 

Sixth, there have been precious few times I've seen politicians openly and intentionally insult their constituents, as you did in your closing sentence.

Seventh, although the replies to your question showed some hostility, your over-reaction was incredibly thin-skinned. I've been in the public light before as a candidate. There were blog sites dedicated entirely to maligning me and, at times, my family. It never would have dawned on me to react to hostile statements in the manner you did. And, unlike me, you've been doing this for years now. It's unbelievable that you would have so little self control that you would put a statement like that in writing and not even think before hitting the send button. What would happen if you were truly under pressure with no opportunity to self-edit? 

I'll close by telling you this: I thought your second comment was intellectually dishonest, as I really can't believe your first comment truly was intended to "reach out." If, however, I'm incorrect and you truly did intend to reach out, your comments exhibited blithering incompetence as a politician. I understand how your approach may get those who see the world the same way you do to support you, but wouldn't it be more rewarding as an elected official to work with those who don't and find common ground?

UPDATE — Ironically, Representative Kavanagh posted a third comment while I was writing this post. Although I do not agree entirely with that comment, it was a decent attempt to reach out, and stands in sharp contrast to his earlier comments, to which this letter was addressed.

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