The congressman representing UCLA and much of West Los Angeles held a town hall Thursday where he used satire, video clips and celebrities to keep the discussion light.
About 400 people packed the Santa Monica High School theater and greeted Rep. Ted Lieu with a standing ovation.
Lieu has garnered national attention in the months following the inauguration because of his vocal criticism of President Donald Trump’s administration, both online and through media interviews.
He opened up the town hall by wishing the audience members a happy 4/20 and told them the town hall would not be conventional because of the unconventional times.
Lieu first shared his family’s story of immigrating to the U.S. He said when he first moved to America with his parents they were poor, but through hard work they were able to put him and his brother through college.
He then said he did not initially set out to resist Trump. He issued a public statement about the peaceful transition of power after the election and asked his constituents to give him a chance to govern. However, Lieu said he decided in January he was wrong and boycotted the inauguration.
“He is a danger to the republic,” Lieu said to a standing ovation and a sea of green “Agree!” cards. “The most patriotic thing I can do is to resist Donald Trump.”
Lieu said the audience could help stop Trump’s radical agenda by supporting environmental and women’s organizations and the free press.
For example, when Stephen Bannon, White House chief strategist, called the media the opposition party, Lieu said he bought newspaper subscriptions for his son and encouraged audience members to do the same.
Lieu also said he thinks the best way to resist the Trump administration is for the Democratic party to win a majority in the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections.
Though some town halls for members of Congress, including Democrats, have faced hostile audience members over issues such as healthcare, opposition to Trump and American intervention in Syria, Lieu’s audience applauded almost every position he stated.
For example, Sen. Dianne Feinstein was booed at her town halls in San Francisco and Los Angeles for refusing to support single-payer healthcare.
Lieu said he supports a single-payer healthcare system, opposes Trump’s missile launch in Syria, and called for a special prosecutor to look into Russia’s ties to the Trump administration because he thinks Trump should be impeached.
He added he also proposed a bill which would require the president to get approval from Congress before launching any nuclear weapons.
Kathy Griffin, a stand-up comedian and constituent in Lieu’s district, came on stage to advocate for a more united Democratic party.
“I am a Hillary person,” Griffin said. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t also love Bernie.”
Griffin added she thinks most Democrats agree on core issues such as climate change and healthcare.
“We have to stay together,” Griffin said. “We can’t fight amongst ourselves. No more of this ‘BS’ infighting. That’s how we win.”
When Lieu opened up the town hall to questions from the audience members, they showered him with compliments and praise for his work.
Lieu said in an interview after the town hall he thinks satire can be an effective way of highlighting issues and fighting back.
“I remember Michelle Obama’s beautiful line of ‘When they go low we go high,’” Lieu said. “But we lost the election, so I concluded now that when they go low, I am fighting back.”
He added that he never intended to use Twitter to resist the Trump administration, but when the President started tweeting false and bizarre statements, he wanted to fight back on that same medium.
Justin Jeong, a Stanford undergraduate student who attended the town hall, said he thinks Lieu’s district location and constituents contribute to his success.
“He can put up the fight he does because of how supportive his constituents are,” Jeong said. “He can say whatever he wants and do whatever he wants, which others can’t.”
Cara Robin, a UCLA alumna and president of the West Los Angeles Democratic club said she loves and admires the congressman.
“He is brilliant,” Robin said. “I have been following him for years and he has always done a fabulous job.”