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August 13, 2013

GOP Now Holding Fewer Town Halls, "Terrified" To Confront Their Constituents

It's almost as if they want our support but not our input.

Kaus, suggesting this is largely about amnesty, links the Times. That would be my guess. That, and government shutdown/defunding ObamaCare.

The article begins by noting Pete Sessions, a Republican Texas Congressman (Local News Story, I guess, and yet the Times is covering him) has failed to schedule any town hall meetings this cycle.

One of his constituents, Katrina Pierson, 37, who describes herself as a “conservative grass-roots volunteer” and had hoped to press Mr. Sessions on his commitment to pulling financing from the health care law, is so exasperated that she and a group of like-minded advocates have offered to host a meeting for him.

“He can just give us a date,” she said. “We’ll set it up.”

Though Republicans in recent years have harnessed the political power of these open mic, face-the-music sessions, people from both parties say they are noticing a decline in the number of meetings. They also say they are seeing Congressional offices go to greater lengths to conceal when and where the meetings take place.

“The whole thing is very anti-democratic, and it’s classic behavior of entrenched insiders,” said Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, a Tea Party group that in 2009 helped send legions of demonstrators to town halls. Now, it is trying to draw out seemingly reluctant members by staging public events like mock meet-your-lawmaker meetings with empty chairs. “We’ve lost that Rockwell image of citizen participation in democracy.”


Members of Congress and their aides were reluctant to talk about the lack of town halls on the record, mindful of the pressure from liberal and conservative groups alike. “Ninety percent of the audience will be there interested in what you have to say,” one Senate Republican aide said. “It’s the other 5 or 10 percent who aren’t. They’re there to make a point and, frankly, to hijack the meeting.”


“The reason 2009 was so successful for the grass roots was because the politicians never saw it coming,” said Jennifer Stefano, the state director for the Pennsylvania chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party group. “Now they know. And they are terrified.”

I don't even understand what this could possibly mean. Your constituents who show up at a town hall to express their views and to get answers to questions relevant to themselves are "hijacking the meeting" by doing so?

These guys just want a controlled, manufactured event. They want to have a nice, staged photo op they can call a Town Hall where they give a standard stump speech and then go home.

Now I grant you a lot of people who show up at these things -- being intense partisans, and having political axes to grind -- may pepper Congressmen with odd questions. Silver dimes questions, Birth certificate questions.

And so what?

The entire point of a non-scripted live opportunity for questioning is, well, the lack of the script. There is no point in merely reading a printed press release aloud -- and that seems to be what these guys want.

We see this from celebrities, and of course we see it a lot from politicians. But while celebrities do not have any particular obligation to be candid with, open with, and accessible to their fans -- their constituents -- politicians obviously do.

Particularly those who claim to wish to return to a better America, the earlier America, the America in which the Constitution was not only binding law but a sort of secular holy law, a time in which Americans were so joyous about their new-won freedom that they eagerly attended town halls to add their voices to the public debate.

Technology and changing cultural norms provide a method for politicians to escape ever meeting their actual constituents. They can appear before them, virtually, on TV. They can send them virtual letters through email.

They do have the ability now to never actually meet their constituents, except virtually, which permits them to control the directionality of speech: Speech flows outwards from them, to the constituent, but not the other way around.

This is corrosive to democracy. It's not the way it was and it's not the way it should be.

If a politician has any kind of personal command he can handle a few noise-makers. If a politician has a brain in his head he can parry the oddball obsessions of a crank.

And if a politician is going to take a position opposite that of the people he supposedly represents, he ought to have the guts and integrity to tell them so, to their faces.

You know, politicians supposedly live in their home districts.

They don't. They live in Washington DC and its tony suburbs. They visit their alleged hometowns.

That means that the social circles they move in, and the thought-communities that influence them, are made up almost entirely of inside-the-beltway professional media class/permanent bureaucracy. City slickers, by and large, though those from Texas might occasionally wear boots and those from North Carolina will still eat some barbecue.

I would posit that it is a very healthy thing to occasionally force oneself to be subject to the influence -- even if rude, even if confrontational -- of the people one is actually supposed to represent rather than permitting oneself to be solely influenced by the courtiers, praetors, archons, provincial governors, tax-farmers, and high priests of the Imperial Capital.

Democracy is supposed to be rude and confrontational. It is supposed to involve dialogue, not just monologues.

Monologues are for funerals.

Just a couple of times a season. Just a few times every season, and then you can go back to ensconce yourselves in the New Rome and enjoy its higher level of civilization, its delicious intrigues, and of course its exquisite bathhouses.

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posted by Ace at 06:29 PM

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