Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Holding town halls when a fringe minority has promised to hijack them is a waste

Jason Mercier of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center, recently took Congressman Brian Baird to task for deciding not to hold a town hall meeting with constituents to discuss health care during the August recess, as did his neighboring colleague Congressman Adam Smith.
It should not surprise elected officials that when they push controversial policies, there will be some heat back home. Assuming the policy is well thought out and the typical member of Congress understands what he is advocating, he should have no fear answering even the most hostile question.

Whether a union packs a town hall or tax protesters, these individuals are still constituents and, more important, they are Americans participating in representative government.

Although some in Congress may prefer that town hall meetings be more like an echo chamber, it appears Smith has not lost sight of the fact that all of his constituents have the right to be heard and not just those who agree with him.
As a resident of the 3rd Congressional District, I agree that it is counterproductive and anathema to democracy for elected officials to constantly meet with groups of like-minded people who share their opinions, as George Dubya Bush did when he was in power. This is not what Brian Baird is advocating.

Congressman Baird is not avoiding constituents by not having a town hall meeting. Indeed, Congressman Baird has continuously visited every corner of the 3rd District, even facing critics like myself who loudly disagreed with his position on Bush’s escalation in Iraq. According to The Olympian, Baird has held 305 town hall meetings in the 11 years since he was first elected. To say he is ducking his constituents isn’t fair.

There is a place for dissent in our democracy. A loyal, vocal opposition keeps the majority honest. However, shouting down members of Congress and engaging in unruly behavior and painting swastikas on their office signs is not democracy. It’s mob behavior, criminal in some cases, and has no place in a civilized society.

To be clear, teabaggers and deathers are not looking for reform. They’re trying to subvert democracy by turning town halls into chaos. They’re not interested in civilized conversation that leads to compromise and better public policy. They want more of the same fearmongering and inaction on the most important issues that we’ve had for the last eight years.

In fact, on a private conference call they’ve said as much.

There is no reasoning with unreasonable people. And for those who do want to engage in conversation with their member of Congress, their engagement in democracy is ruined by the bad apples who are intent on causing mayhem. Congressman Baird is right to decline to meet the wingnuts on their terms. And he is holding a tele-town hall meeting which should prove to be more orderly.

If you live in the 3rd District and want to have a conversation with Congressman Baird about health care, write him a letter or send him an e-mail and let him know what you think. I’ve always received a response from him, even when we’ve been on opposite sides of an issue.


Blogger OneLiberalVoice said...

I agree. The teleconferences are way more useful. I just wish there was time for more questions or that we could submit them in advance so that the most popular questions and the most interesting questions could be answered...

August 11, 2009 6:24 PM  

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