Email #119, Subject: “meaningful consultation”?

I was recently called by the Washington Post and asked about my months-long efforts to schedule a meeting with you. I of course could report no progress of any kind.

Everyone morning I submit a request in the “Request a Meeting” form on your website, and the only response I’ve ever received is the automatic email that appears in my inbox a minute later. I have asked to meet with you one-on-one, in a small group conference room setting, or simply as an audience member of a town hall. I have made my requests by email, by phone, including to your district scheduler in Roanoke, and in person to your district supervisor, to your communication director, and to your chief-of-staff. You have never gotten back to me, nor has a staff member ever responded to me in any way.

You said in a recent letter to me that the government agency that wrote the Stream Protection Rule “did not comply with the requirement to engage in meaningful consultation with the impacted state governments during the yearlong development of this rule.” Although I agree that “meaningful consultation” is an essential expectation, I am surprised that you acknowledged its importance given your continuing failure to engage in meaningful consultation with your constituents.

I do not understand your political positions. Many of your public statements are internally contradictory. Many of them reduce complex issues to slogans that mislead and obfuscate core questions. The vast majority of the questions I’ve posed in my letters, on the phone to your staff members, in the comments of your Facebook event, and in the recordings I’ve left after your “telephone town halls” have gone unanswered.  You are refusing to meaningfully consult.

I read that your former Democratic opponent Andy Schmookler has challenged you to a debate. This is not what I’m proposing. A debate is not a consultation. It might not involve shouting, but debaters only listen to their opponents in order to find weaknesses to strengthen their own attacks. Debaters never acknowledge complexities or admit regrets or adjust their positions to new insights. That only happens in sincere conversations.

I am once again asking to have a meaningful conversation with you. I would prefer to hold it publicly so that others can also hear your explanations for positions that appear contradictory, but I would happily meet with you in private too. At minimum I hope the next time the Washington Post calls me, I can report some positive news about you.




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).

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