Yes, even U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert can talk civics in schools

Anyone who reads my columns knows I’m no fan of Congresswoman Lauren Boebert. Thanks to her penchant for inanity this writer never wants for grist.

This time, however, she was not in the wrong and her detractors’ faux outrage merits derision. Their righteous gasping over a routine school visit is so wildly overwrought that either the town pharmacy is out of Xanax or their pretensions mask rank opportunism.

Such self-righteous, self-seeking hyperventilation fuels ugly partisan division, like we need more of that, and will ultimately lead to fewer opportunities for students to interact with lawmakers. Also, if they wanted to generate sympathy for the congresswoman amongst the generally unsympathetic, they nailed it.

A year ago, a high school civics class in Dolores, a town so far in the middle of nowhere this Colorado native had to look it up, said they wanted to meet their representative to Congress. Boebert’s office was not able to schedule the school visit until March of this year. The event was announced in advance and was optional for students.

Parents were not allowed to attend, a mistake on the school’s part, but faculty was present. Boebert did not demonize Democrats or advocate for her next election, she behaved as countless other elected officials do when they are invited to give a school talk.

By the reaction of a handful of malcontents, you would think Boebert had raved at the podium, drew sidearm, and popped off a few rounds. The school received a dozen negative emails and a few voicemails some of which expressed concerns that the diminutive congresswoman posed a safety concern. One parent filed a formal complaint against Reece Blinco, the Dolores School District Superintendent, and Justin Schmitt, the high school principal. Karen thinks they should be fired for allowing a U.S. congresswoman she doesn’t like to speak to the student body. Even the Durango Herald, located an hour away, got in on the action publishing a fearsome editorial rebuking the visit. News of the sound and fury appeared here in the state’s paper of record this week.

All of that fuss was over a school visit. Having been a Congressional staffer, I remember these visits well. Representatives and their staff regularly visit schools, hospitals, and other public spaces where they shake hands, take pictures, and deliver nonpartisan blandly inspirational remarks. Their presence is not an endorsement; it’s an opportunity to engage the public as an office holder.

Elected officials all over the country participate in these civic, ceremonial events regardless of party affiliation or reputation. It’s understood that provocateurs and statesmen, the brilliant and the dim all get the podium from time to time, even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, even Rep. Hank Johnson, who once fretted in committee the island of Guam could capsize (his handlers likely request student questions in advance), even Lauren Boebert.

If it were a campaign year, if the representative had previously misused school visits to excoriate political rivals, or if the representative’s name is Matt Gaetz who was under investigation for months for allegations of sex trafficking a teen before the case was dropped, then it would be inappropriate for a school to schedule a visit from the Member of Congress.

And since someone is sure to ask, yes, I want my niece’s school to host the liberal Democrat who represents the Denver suburb where it is located. She and her fellow students would benefit from a visit from any of the local or statewide elected officials who are, to a one, all on the left or far left. Schoolchildren benefit from meeting elected officials and learning about what they do. It’s part of their civic education.

By whining about Boebert’s visit to Dolores High School, however, a few squeaking wheels will make it less likely schools will risk negative attention by hosting an elected official. Students will no longer have that opportunity. It’s also a morale buster for staff and leaders in the small rural Dolores School District. Nice job. Manufactured outrage as a political weapon isn’t without collateral damage.

Krista L. Kafer is a weekly Denver Post columnist. Follow her on Twitter: @kristakafer

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