The 115th U.S. Congress is now in its first recess. This two-week Congressional recess is traditionally a time for Senators and Representatives to take a couple of weeks and go back home, engage in local events, and hold town hall meetings to hear from their constituents and voters.
Not this Congress. Town halls held by Republican lawmakers in particular have recently been met with huge crowds of angry voters, furious about a range of issues from losing their Affordable Care Act healthcare coverage, to Donald Trump’s frighteningly chaotic transition, to Congressional leaders’ refusal to investigate serious and troubling legal and ethical problems in the Trump administration. Representatives have encountered throngs of protesters and been loudly booed when they dodged important questions. Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who repeatedly called for investigations into Benghazi and Hillary Clinton’s emails, has effectively refused to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, Trump’s potentially illegal conflicts of interest, or the many ethical violations of the Trump team. At his last town hall meeting, Chaffetz struggled to speak over a crowd of his constituents chanting, “Do your job!”
Knowing what they are likely to face at home, Republican lawmakers are now employing a variety of tactics to avoid answering to their constituents. Town halls have been canceled (or never scheduled) across America, and many Representatives are now citing unspecified “scheduling conflicts” as a reason not to meet their voters face to face. For the sake of appearances, some are scheduling “telephone town halls,” with pre-selected audiences and carefully screened questions. This is a particularly craven avoidance tactic, because even though they are rigging up a perfectly safe and insulated environment to protect themselves from facing voters’ very real concerns, these Representatives will almost certainly still claim they listened and got feedback from their home constituencies.
Don’t let them do it. Call your Senators’ and Representatives’ local offices and demand that they schedule in-person town hall meetings. Be specific, and stand firm when their staff tells you how busy they are, etc. Don’t accept excuses. At your job, if the boss summons you for a meeting, you don’t send back a message saying how busy you are – you go to that meeting. In this situation, you’re the boss; Senators and Representatives work for you, and when you demand a face-to-face meeting, it’s their job to show up. Make sure they know if they don’t do their job and appear in person to address voters’ concerns, you are fully prepared to fire them.
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