The New York Times has an interesting article about Members of Congress not engaging in “town hall” meetings during this summer’s recess. Apparently congressional Democrats, at least, are gun shy about appearing at unscripted public meetings after having to face angry voters last year. So, rather than trying to figure out how to effectively and persuasively answer the likely criticisms of such voters, they have decide to avoid open meetings altogether and instead appear only at controlled functions.
After reading the article, I checked the official websites of the two Columbus-area representatives, Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy of the 15th District and Republican Pat Tiberi of the 12th District, to see if they had any information on upcoming “town hall”-type meetings. Rep. Kilroy’s website contains several links that allow you to get controlled information about Rep. Kilroy — on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and “Mary Jo TV” — but no apparent information that I could find on any upcoming live appearances that are open to the general public. (Her website does, however, include a “Recovery Act online quiz” that states that “the evidence is clear — and growing by the day — that the Recovery Act is working to create jobs, prevent a second Great Depression, and lay a new foundation for an economic prosperity shared by all.” I’m stunned that any politician would be touting the “stimulus bill” at this point, but maybe her website isn’t updated regularly.) The website of Pat Tiberi, who represents us here in New Albany, also does not seem to provide information on any public appearances in the coming weeks.
Perhaps there is a stronger tradition of public meetings in New England or early primary states like Iowa than there is in Ohio. In any case, I think it is useful for Members of Congress to interact with the general public in unscripted settings. It is pathetic and, frankly, craven for Members of Congress to be ducking such interaction simply because they don’t believe they are going to like what they will see and hear when they meet their constituents.