From the Women’s March after the Inauguration, to spontaneous demonstrations at airports in reaction to the immigrant travel ban, to over-flowing town hall meetings, Americans are stepping forward to express their opinions and concerns to their congressional representatives.
This outpouring, that is our democratic right of expression, has spooked many congress people, especially in gerrymandered districts such as Jason Chaffetz’s of Utah, and has been met with feigned disbelief by them. Instead of being open to constituent concerns, they have denounced town hall participants as being brought in from outside their districts in a “paid attempt to bully and intimidate.” White House press secretary Sean Spicer has accused them of being a “very paid, Astro-Turf movement.” Like claims of voter fraud, accusations of mercenary activity and outside agitation at town halls remain baseless. Those accusations are simply smoke screens to hide the fact that people do not agree with what is being foisted on them and they are speaking out clearly and in numbers that indicate the extent of the concern
Town halls, mainstays of constituent /representative dialog, have been being abandoned by many who claim the outpouring of citizen concern is “disruptive” or “unproductive.” Boisterous as some may become, the skilled and open politician will allow for intensity of expression, acknowledge concerns, engage the crowd thus create dialog, not just promote dogma.
The job of the elected officials is to listen to concerns and see that they are addressed, not to run from them and legislate in a manner uninformed by constituent feedback. It is a job they sought and were elected to do, for which we are paying them. We should expect them show up and listen, especially when the demand for dialog is so clearly expressed, not to shrink from that duty because they are not receiving approval for their current positions. Smaller meetings have their place, but the dynamics of town hall meetings are important and offer a wider opportunity constituent participation.
The rallies and town hall type meetings in which I have participated have certainly been conducted with intense purpose, but with due decorum and respect when the representative actually shows up. I feel the vast majority of those joining in display dedication to those principles and certainly are not being paid to participate…this is just democracy! Town halls also offer a chance for us to speak to each other and, whatever our positions, be open and take the opportunity to listen to one another as our representatives should listen to us…
Democracy is not a spectator sport…join in.