Some politicians refuse to meet the people in the community they represent. But one Minnesota Republican took the occasional practice of saying "no" to constituents to a different level. Rep. Mary Franson used a shrug emoticon to refuse to meet a student group simply because they weren't members of her party. That's right. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The peculiar conversation between Franson and the student group, known as Alexandria Area High School Democrats (AAHS), took place on Friday, Dec. 15. on Twitter and led to a high amount of criticism from Twitter users against the Republican legislator. The group tried several times to get the Republican to meet them.
On Friday, a student official from AAHS tweeted at Franson, "Honorable event today! We’ve made some calls to your office, and haven’t recieved [sic] a response, but as politically active, community centered students we’d love to have a meeting with you soon to address our concerns, and have a respectful productive talk. Thanks!"
In response to the tweet, Franson said that she had "politely declined" to attend the Democrat meeting. The students persisted once more and asked, "How about we meet at your legislative office? We’d love to talk - constituent to rep."
This is where Franson took on a more stern tone and said, "I don’t meet with partisan groups in my office. Besides, isn’t your group actively campaigning against me? One of your members is soliciting funds for my opponent. Also, why aren’t you trying to meet with Senator Ingebrigtsen?" Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen is another Minnesota Republican.
Noting the legislator's refusal to meet with the student body based on partisan differences, the AAHS student account replied, "Just because we are of different parties doesn’t mean we shouldn’t meet and talk out our differences. We actually think that’s necessary, regardless of what campaign some of our members are on! We are constituents who have some concerns."
Constituents have the right to contact their representatives as a form of political engagement. It's one of the basic tenets of a functioning democracy, after all. Franson, however, responded, "AAHS Dems is a partisan group. Thanks for playing."
The group told the Republican legislator that they were indeed and openly partisan and added that, "It’s essential that people from all beliefs actually talk about our differences. We also think it’s a legislator’s duty to meet with constituents."
And this is where the Republican threw a shrug emoticon and said, "It’s not a legislator’s duty to meet with a “proudly” partisan democrat group. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯"
The Republican representative tried to use semantics in her favor to justify her refusal. She said that if one student wanted to meet her on a one-on-one basis, she would be OK with it. But if it was a group that sought to talk to her, she would take a pass on that.
Taking note of Franson's refusal, another Minnesota Democrat, Rep. Erin Maye Quade, tweeted at Franson and said, "Actually, it is a legislator’s job to meet with constituents. Even if there are known ideological differences. Even if the constituents aren’t your campaign donors." She even shared a screenshot of her own amicable correspondence with GOP members.
Still, Franson refused to change her mind. Having seen that she showed no signs of budging, the student group still remained positive and said that it would reach out to the Republican representative in the future.
"It seems like you fundamentally cannot understand that people of different beliefs in your district are still constituents. That’s unfortunate. We’ll be making more calls (as constituents?) to meet, otherwise have a wonderful holiday season," an Alexandria Area High School Democrats official said, ending with the raising hands emoji.