Email #71, Subject: town hall meetings?

Another constituent visited your DC office at the same time that my son and I did. I believe her name was Polly. She was from Roanoke, and she said that it was once common for you to be seen outside there. She said people used to regularly greet and speak to you on the streets, but that you are never seen in the open like that anymore. Why has your behavior changed so drastically?

I read in the Staunton paper that you haven’t held a town hall since 2013. When I asked Beth Breeding whether that was true, she said she didn’t know. That surprised me since town halls would seem to fall under the job description of Communications Director. But Beth did acknowledge that she had been working in your office for several years and that she could recall no town halls taking place during that period. Of course she also insisted that you are very interested in meeting with constituents—though she kept replacing “town hall” with the term “outreach.” I’m not entirely sure what “outreach” is, but it does not seem to include visits to places where you are likely to encounter voters who do not already agree with your legislative positions.

The only hope Beth could give me was that you might start holding town halls by telephone. I’m not sure if you can accurately call that a town hall, but hearing your voice on the phone would at least be an improvement. She said the group calls might accommodate as many as a thousand listeners. I would love to be involved in one. It wasn’t entirely clear how callers and their questions would be selected and screened though. Also, since these group calls would take about an hour of your time and eliminate any traveling, I thought she was going to say that you would be holding them weekly. Instead she said she hoped to schedule two or three this year.

While I appreciate any step in the right direction, this is not an especially promising one. Group calls in themselves sound fine. Do please add them to your regular roster of outreach activities. But do not pretend they are a substitute for actual meetings. There is something wrong if you and your constituents can’t look each other in the face.

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

1 thought on “Email #71, Subject: town hall meetings?”

  1. Sadly, I think part of the problem is that Bob has historically garnered such a large majority and hasn’t had a close election. As a result, he wrongly believes that he represents the majority. He genuinely believes that there’s a very vocal minority but they pose no real threat to him and his re-election. I believe he’s wrong. Now the challenge is getting him to realize he’s wrong.

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