No Town Halls, No Problem

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 23 2011 10:59 AM

No Town Halls, No Problem

So this is the reason why we're seeing fewer outbursts at congressional town hall meetings than we did in 2009. There's as much anger as ever. There just aren't as many town halls. No Labels, which I'd rank as the Group Least Likely to Send Loud People to Events, ran down the schedules in 430 districts and found that only 40 percent of members are holding free, public town halls. Proportionately, more Democrats than Republicans are skipping the events. Not hugely surprising; after the 2009 debacle,* Democrats scaled back their town hall plans.

But it was Republicans who embraced the 2009 ragegasms. It's Republicans taking flak now for scaling back public events. In April, Rep. Lou Barletta's swing district was the site of well-reported, angry town halls. This summer?

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), who ran for office in 2008 badgering his opponent for not holding town hall meetings, has abandoned the format in favor of roundtable discussions with pre-selected groups, he told the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Penn.
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Problem solved! Chip Cravaack, who unexpectedly won a Democratic-leaning seat anchored by Duluth, MN, has not held town halls in the city -- just events with limited access. Decisions like that limit the ugly videos and viral stories that can result if a crowd goes ape. Chris Bower's been collecting stories about the town halls gone wrong.**

*the lowlight of which being Nancy Pelosi's column in USA Today arguing that town hall disruptions were un-American.

**Or gone right!

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.