Thursday, February 23, 2017

Congress can't duck reinvigorated voters left and right

Yay or Nay

During a long stretch during his two-year term in office, NJ Gov. Chris Christie developed a potent political weapon--the Town Hall Meeting.  His skilled staff booked the events in friendly districts, seeded the audience with pro-Christie voters and provided props, backdrops and signs all designed to give Christie the best chance to advance his legislative agenda, torment Democrats, and boost his national recognition in advance of what everyone knew back then was his coming presidential bid.

Members of Congress saw how well it worked and began scheduling their own Town Halls. They used the vehicle to demonstrate to the folks back in their districts how on top of things they were. Good news coverage generally followed.

Now the folks back home are demanding that what used to be a one-way publicity stunt to function the way they want. They want to talk back and let Mr./Ms. Congressperson know that they're mad as hell with the way things are going, regardless of their voter affiliation or leaning.

Uh oh.  Just like the rest of us, Congress people want to be liked. Not insulted. Not questioned, especially by people who are more attuned than ever to the BS lines designed to deflect the topic.

So a number of Washington leaders are no longer holding Town Halls. That isn't pleasing constituents one bit. Those who swallow hard and wade into the fray might be scoring points for courage but they're still sweating the experience.

Witness NJ Rep Leonard Lance's Town Hall last night.

The Washington Post

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) faced a record crowd at a town hall meeting Wednesday night where audience members pressed him to urge President Trump to release his tax returns and investigate Russia’s interference in U.S. elections.
In what his office said was the largest turnout of his congressional career, more than 900 people were packed in a community college auditorium, the largest such space in his district, and an overflow room was filled with another 250 people. More than 350 protesters gathered outside.
Leonard Lance meets constituents at Town Hall Feb 22 2017 Dominick Reuter photo for Reuters“I believe those in the audience were constituents,” Lance said afterward. “I don’t believe they were paid.”
Lance faced countless hecklers shouting “Do your job!” and “Answer the question!” Audience members rose to their feet when demanding that Trump release his tax returns, and for Lance and all other politicians to “put country before party.”
In the end, Lance said he felt that “the vast majority tried to listen to my responses.”

What happens if you stop holding Town Halls?
Brick (NJ) Patch reports today:

Frustrated that Rep. Tom MacArthur will not hold a face-to-face town hall meeting, a group of Ocean County constituents are planning to protest Thursday evening outside the offices of WOBM, the radio station where MacArthur conducts a regular "Ask the Congressman" radio call-in show.
MacArthur is scheduled to be on the radio station at 7 p.m. Thursday for the monthly show, which airs on WOBM 1160 AM and can be heard online at
"Representative MacArthur is on record as saying that he doesn't want to host an open Town Hall meeting because "paid" protesters might prevent him from hearing from his constituents.

Let's gather outside the station to let him know that we are REAL, UNPAID, FIRED UP people who will actively resist the Trump/MacArthur agenda," the protest organizers said in a Facebook event posting about the protest.
Protesters are being urged to meet outside the Ocean County Library's main branch in Toms River at 101 Washington St. at 6 p.m., with the plan to walk to the offices of WOBM on Robbins Street at 6:15 p.m. with the hope of seeing MacArthur as he walks into the office for the radio show.
What’s your take on this? Have you been to a town hall? What was your impression? Will your congressperson’s attendance or ducking affect your vote next time around? Will voter fire sizzle when summer arrives?  Tell us in the ‘comment’ box below.
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