June 24, 2019

Voice of the People

Your Elected Representatives Need to Face You

by Susan E. Stutz

Town halls in an age of legislative desertion.

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The men and women that make up Congress are elected by you and me. When they were voted into office and sent to Washington, they entered into an employment agreement of sorts with the American people. They are the employee; we are the employer. In order for the relationship between us to be successful, it requires that we communicate. So, we write to them, we call them, and we go to their offices. But, one of the other important ways that we can interact with our elected officials is by attending a town hall where we get to ask questions and voice our opinions as to what is and is not important to the constituency — to the American people.

Since the 2016 election, however, town halls have dwindled in some places and disappeared altogether in others. Representatives, whose very job it is to work for the people back home, have chosen to ignore their constituents rather than face those who are unhappy with their representation. In some districts, it has been years since voters have had face time with their legislative representatives. Instead of taking their lumps from a dissatisfied constituency, members of state and national legislatures have chosen to ignore them. Like Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio.

Marco Rubio, citing fear of a “hostile atmosphere”, has been conspicuously absent the last several years, except for when CNN came to town in February 2018. There had not been a Rubio sighting for well over a year before the CNN town hall and absolutely none since, unless you count fundraisers, which we do not.

It took the death of seventeen high school students to bring Rubio out of his hiding place. And, when he finally showed up, what did he do? He offered what amounted to more thoughts and prayers. He said that he supported raising the minimum age to buy rifles from 18 to 21. He talked about how he would reconsider magazine sizes. He also said that he disagreed with Trump on the issue of arming our school teachers. And, after all of those platitudes were spoken, and parents of the children who died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School pleaded with him to take gun reform seriously, he defended his willingness to continue receiving financial support from the NRA. And, we have not seen or heard from him since. At the end of the day, Rubio cherishes the support of the NRA more than he does the lives of Florida's children.

Where on the ballot does it say that once elected, everyone will love you? That everyone will agree with you? Facing the good, the bad, and the ugly is a key component to a life in public service — emphasis on public.

The key to a functioning democracy is that the will of the people is heard. In the words of Woodrow Wilson, “The ear of the leader must ring with the voice of the people.”

It is not enough to hear from a constituency on election day. There is more to public service than being just a name on the ballot. State and federal legislators owe their communities an opportunity to speak to and with them regarding the issues that are important to them. We will not always agree, but the dialogue is vital if the dream of a truly democratic society is to be realized. If your officials don’t, why would you give them your vote? A lesson the citizens of Maine’s 2nd, California’s 45th and 48th, Florida’s 26th, Pennsylvania’s 12th, and other districts served up in November 2018.

What you can do

Send townhall to Resistbot to find out if your officials have scheduled any town halls. If not, send Congress or State to encourage your legislators to hold them. The bot will alert you when and if they announce any.

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