On Friday afternoon I saw a post on Facebook stating that State Senator Bill Brady was on his way back to his Bloomington office. They were looking for people willing to show up to ask him why he was one of only three “no” votes against ratifying the ERA in Illinois.
(Some background: The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal rights for women. The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman. In 1923, it was introduced in Congress for the first time. Most states passed the ERA in the ’70s. Illinois is one of two states which have not ratified it. )
I happened to be getting off work at about the same time the Senator would be arriving back in Bloomington. I don’t know much about Mr. Brady and I did not feel prepared to argue the finer points of the bill, but I realize there is strength in numbers, so I decided to go. My plan was to blend into the background and nod my head or scowl at reasonable intervals. It didn’t exactly turn out that way, and I am glad that it didn’t. I learned much more valuable lessons by just showing up that day.
Let me say for as unprepared as we were for this last-minute surprise visit, the Senator was even less prepared. He appeared confused, flustered, at times irritated. He was also very curious as to how we even knew he was in town because “he wasn’t scheduled to be here.”
When I arrived at the office, all the lights were off and there were only a couple cars in the lot. I wasn’t sure if anyone was inside or how many people might show so I decided to go on in. The door was unlocked. When I stepped inside it appeared no one was there. I then heard voices coming from the office. Alison Clegg was already speaking with the Senator. I sat down and asked how far they had gotten. Alison explained they had just started.
Below is Alison’s Facebook update after the meeting:
“… At 1:26 pm, I called Bill’s Springfield office number (217-782-6216). I talked to a female staffer and told her I wanted to know why Bill voted “NO” on the ERA. She said she didn’t know anything about it, but would ask him when he was in the office later and get back to me. As of 3:00 this afternoon, I still hadn’t heard a follow up so I called her back. She said he was still out of the office and would be returning from an event in Springfield shortly. I asked her if he was returning to Bloomington and she said yes. I figured if he was leaving Springfield around 3:15, that would put him at his Bloomington office at 4:30.
Surprise Bill! I walked into his office at 4:30 and caught him by surprise. The lobby was dark and he was alone in the back. I told him I was a constituent and I had a few questions I wanted to ask him. He welcomed me back to his office (which is filled with Republican memorabilia). I clearly caught him off guard. His mail was all over the table and his headphones were all bunched up.
Me: “So, why did you vote no on the ERA?”
Bill: “What are you talking about?”
Me: “The ERA. You voted NO on Wednesday.”
Bill: “Well, I’ll give you a few reasons why I voted no.”
Me: “Perfect, I would love to hear them.”
Bill: “The ERA contains a section that supports a woman’s right to an abortion.”
*Insert my very confused face*
So the discussion went on. I asked him where [the amendment] stated that and he said I had caught him off guard by randomly walking into his office and he didn’t know the exact location of the abortion verbiage.
I then asked him about a town hall and he stated that the earliest he would be able to meet for a town hall would be summer because his weeks are filled in Springfield. I asked him about a Saturday meeting, but that idea was shot down because he claims “they have tried that before and no one would show up”.
In walks Shayna.
Shayna picked up right where we had left the conversation. It was clear Bill was now VERY caught off guard. We brought up the ERA again and Bill said that women were already protected enough under a different Illinois law and he would like to see the US Constitution adapt to the Illinois Constitution (or something along those lines…).
I brought up Springfield on Tuesday and how I had left pink cards at his office with a little message saying “hi” because he is my neighbor. He said he didn’t know what i was talking about and hadn’t seen them. He also told Shayna and me that even if 1000 pink cards were delivered to his office he would still vote against ratifying the ERA because he is a “pro-life Catholic” and that “goes against what he believes”. He even mentioned that his wife “might be pro-choice”. He said he only represents the people that voted for him and they know what he stands for. He won’t change who he is. He also state that he “is the decision maker and his staff knows that anything constituents say, won’t change his mind”. He also said the time has passed for the ERA to be ratified and ratifying it would have “no significance”.
So there’s how it went down. He argued with me about how I figured out he was in his office. He didn’t believe the staffer actually told me when and where to find him. Bless her heart, she’s probably going to get an earful on Monday. I offered to show him my call log and told him the number I called.
I am working on a town hall. I’m not sure how that is going to go because he is SCARED…”
There were many disturbing revelations that came out of that meeting for me. One, the Senator seemed to be neither well-versed in or even aware of what the ERA protects. He voted against ratifying equal rights for women without really knowing what he was voting against. He went back, over and over again, to the fact that he can’t support the ERA because he is against abortion. He is pro-life, and the ERA would allow women to get abortions whenever they please, no matter how far along in pregnancy. We were flabbergasted as to why this would be an argument against the ERA. We asked him many different ways if he was sure he was wasn’t confusing the ERA with a different bill like HB40 because we weren’t aware of the abortion provisions in the ERA. (There aren’t any.) He assured us that it was there “deep” in the bill. You can see for yourself here:
When Alison brought up that she supports ratifying the ERA because it allows her the right to own property and earn a living, he said, “You can already do that. Passing the ERA would be insignificant.” His lack of understanding on the bill itself and why it is important to women is incredibly disturbing. But the most disturbing thing to come out of the meeting was Senator Bill Brady’s admission he would vote against the wishes of his constituents if their opinion goes against his beliefs. That. Is. Shocking.
Alison and I both had to catch our breath, then Alison asked, “So you are saying that if a majority of your constituents believe you should vote for a bill but you don’t agree with it, you would choose your opinion over theirs?”
His answer was “yes” unequivocally.
This is a man who is comfortable enough in his position that he is admitting he will not do his job. The job the voters have hired him to do. Could you get away with that at your job? It is time to get Mr. Brady out of office. We need to find a candidate to run against him as soon as possible. In the meantime I encourage you to let Mr. Brady know your views about the ERA.
However, you will need to find him in person when you can because another revelation that came out of this meeting is that if your message challenges his beliefs, chances are that his staff will not bother delivering your messages to him. He admitted that his staff knows his views and that no one is going to change his mind. They know delivering the messages of constituents with opposing views to him would be a waste of time, so they don’t do it. That is what the Senator himself stated. No staff was there to defend themselves so we can only go by his own words.
Bill Brady is out of touch and out of his mind if he thinks we will accept this behavior. I suggest we make his next couple years in office as uncomfortable as possible.