Email #145: “listening to the people”?

Your colleague Florida Rep. Ted Yoho deserves some credit. Though his membership in the House Freedom Caucus places him further to the right than you, he still showed up for a town hall meeting with 500 constituents in Gainsville during the Congress’ two-week recess this month. It was Yoho’s second town hall this year. And while he said it was “the rowdiest crowd,” even one of his sharpest critics praised him afterwards:

“I appreciate him actually holding the town hall. I think that’s important. We don’t agree on a lot of things, but I’m glad he’s here listening to the people.”

I wish I could say the same of you. On Thursday, the Staunton City Council voted to “pass along a request by our citizens” for a public town hall meeting. Not only are you rejecting the invitation, you worked behind the scenes to try to prevent the council from even making it. When your staff noticed the item listed on the city council agenda, you personally contacted one of the council members to lobby her to block the decision.

According to Councilwoman Andrea Oakes, you are “trying, at this point, to hold off until the attitudes are more relaxed.” You are giving “the emotional state of the country … a little time to settle.” Oakes was the only member of the Staunton City Council to vote against the invitation.

Rep. Yoho didn’t try to influence the city council of Gainseville to prevent his town hall. He just showed up and did his job. I’m also impressed by Yoho’s willingness to change his position on an issue of shared principle. A local Florida newspaper reported:

“Yoho told audience members that at first, he didn’t care if Trump released the returns because it wasn’t something required by the constitution. However, when the anti-Trump activist visited his office to explain how suspicious Trump’s international business dealings were in relation to his presidency, Yoho had a change of heart…. this is the first time Yoho has publicly called for Trump to release his tax returns.”

I also have written to you about Trump’s tax records and repeatedly asked to meet with you to discuss his failure to release them, but all I have ever received is an automated email.

I never thought I would prefer a member of the rightwing Freedom Caucus as my Representative, but at least Congressman Yoho is willing to listen—and even once in a great change his mind.

You told Oakes the country is enduring “tense political times.” Your behavior is fueling that tension. Avoiding town halls doesn’t “relax” and “settle” “emotional” constituents. It infuriates them further. The Trump administration’s 100th day has passed. How much more “little time” do you need?



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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