Should politicians be required to hold town halls? | The Tylt

Should politicians be required to hold town halls?

According to Politico, there has been a 70 percent decrease in town halls held by members of Congress. During the summer recess of 2017, while lawmakers were working toward dismantling the Affordable Care Act, many town halls became unruly. Constituents jeered representatives, who occasionally ended the events early after losing control. Supporters say representatives owe it to constituents to meet face-to-face. But some lawmakers argue disorderly in-person town halls are a waste of time. What do you think?

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Should politicians be required to hold town halls?
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#NoNeedForTownHalls

As described in May 2017 piece in The Atlantic, in-person town halls are frequently ineffective ways for constituents to communicate with their representatives.

Town hall meetings have long since lost their innocence as the purest incarnation of American representative democracy. In the post-Tea Party era, they are largely performative events, set pieces for the pre-ordained political backlash. Activist groups mobilize attendance, ensure television coverage and Facebook live-streams, prepare talking points and detailed questions for constituents to ask. Citizens confront their legislators with ever increasing and perhaps slightly rehearsed passion, sometimes reading their questions from a script or shouting a monologue aimed as much at the cameras in the back as at the congressman in front of them. In response, congressional offices are trying harder to ensure the event hall is filled with actual constituents, not outsiders bussed in from districts far and wide.
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Unlike in years past, Politico reports that many representatives have chosen to eschew town halls entirely, claiming they are not a productive means of communication.

Andrew Eisenberger, spokesman for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, another vulnerable member on the no-show list, said the California Republican thinks the town hall is “less effective at producing constructive dialogue with his constituents” and prefers meeting with individuals and smaller groups.

“He also has held a number of town halls by telephone and on Facebook, which are not subject to disruption. He has found these methods to be more effective means of communication with constituents,” Eisenberger said.

Another Republican in a tough district who has shunned town halls, Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio, defended the decision through a spokesman.

“Congressman Chabot can reach exponentially more constituents at a fraction of the cost by using tele-townhalls rather than in-person townhall meetings,” Brian Griffith said.

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In the place of in-person town halls, many representatives have moved to "tele-town halls" where constituents join in on an invite-only conference call and present questions to the candidate. The New Yorker reported in July 2017 on the rise of these tele-town halls.

Tele-town halls, as they’re called, are increasingly popular with members of Congress. According to Nathan Williams, the director of Town Hall Project, a progressive nonprofit created earlier this year to help foster and monitor civic engagement, there have been at least three hundred tele-town halls in 2017, most of them held by Republicans. Sometimes, “tele-town halls make perfect sense, especially when Congress is in session,” Williams said...But after a year in which several Republican members of Congress have faced hostile town-hall crowds, worried and angry about the G.O.P.’s plans for health-care reform, Williams fears that these calls are replacing “in-person accessibility.” He noted that, on occasion, constituents are called out of the blue, during the workday, with an announcement that a tele-town hall is starting momentarily. In some cases, he said, there has been no prior announcement.
Participating in a tele-town hall is a multi-step process. Typically, constituents are given a number to call and a pin code to enter. That pin takes them to a conference line, often hosted by the company Access Live. Callers are invited to submit questions by pressing another code. Then, sitting at home, or wherever they prefer to spend lots of time on the phone, they will listen to their representative recite talking points from a D.C. office in response to a small number of accepted, pre-screened questions. Many of these are softballs. One constituent whose call was put through during a tele-town hall held, in June, by the Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen, who represents New Jersey’s Eleventh Congressional District, said, “I just wanted to let you know how difficult it must be for you to make a decision in the health package. And I think you’re doing a good job.”

With such thorough screening, many constituent concerns are never addressed by representatives.

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FINAL RESULTS
Politics
Should politicians be required to hold town halls?
A festive crown for the winner
#TalkToThePeople
#NoNeedForTownHalls