An event in downtown Thursday played out like a microcosm of the politics in our nation's capital.
At noon, about 20 people gathered on the Second Street sidewalk in front of Tulgren Square, the building in which Rep. Sean Duffy's regional office is located. They chanted and carried signs calling on the Republican congressman to vote to end the federal government shutdown.
Across the street, a slightly smaller group of Duffy supporters, with larger pro-Duffy campaign signs, showed their support for the congressman.
After brief comments by Kelly Westlund, a member of the Ashland City Council, the group picketing Duffy's office began chanting, "Stop the shutdown."
When Duffy's supporters on the west side of Second Street joined in the chant, the demonstrators changed their refrain to, "Shut down Duffy."
Voices on the other side of the street replied, "Fire Obama."
A man waiting to cross Second Street at Walnut Street surveyed the scene and commented, "I don't think any of this will help."
Westlund cited a recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling that said 46 percent of residents of Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District disapprove of the job Duffy is doing in Congress, while 40 percent approve. The poll found that 59 percent of residents of the district were opposed to Congress shutting down the government as a way to stop the Affordable Care Act from being put into effect, compared to 35 percent who approved of the strategy.
"We want Sean Duffy to vote to end the government shutdown, and we will not tolerate a bad deal that cuts Social Security benefits or is otherwise unfair to everyday families," said Westlund. "If Sean Duffy decides to follow party ideology instead of standing with his constituents on this crucial issue, he can be sure constituents like me will not forget this moment when election day rolls around in 2014."
Tim Congdon of Hudson, who was with the Duffy supporters, said he thinks the congressman is doing a good job.
The House of Representatives has voted numerous times to reopen the government, he said, but Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid has refused to act on the House bills.
"The last bill they passed was full funding for everything. They just asked the president to follow the small rules that he expects us to live by and give individual people the same rights that are extended to big business," Congdon said.
President Barack Obama has delayed until 2015 a requirement that businesses with more than 50 employees provide health insurance for them or pay a penalty. Individuals, in most cases, must have health insurance in 2014 or pay a $95 penalty.
The demonstration was organized by the liberal groups Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy For America, Center for Community Change, MoveOn.org, CREDO and Progressives United.