Editorials

February 21, 2017 8:30 PM

Editorial: Cowardly members of Congress should show up and face the public at town-hall meetings

If you’re a member of Congress, Facebook is no longer about your “friends.”

Not this week.

Posts lately are testy, leveled at senators and representatives who are dodging constituents. Congress is in recess and voters know that their elected officials have left their normal haunts in Washington, D.C., to return to their home districts.

That means they are in striking range, at least theoretically. If only these elected officials would be brave enough to show their faces in public.

Voters are clamoring to meet members of Congress face-to-face at town halls, with few takers. Salon reports that only 19 members of Congress are holding town halls this week, with most ducking their critics for more favorable crowds at smaller, more exclusive events, like the Rotary gathering that Sen. Pat Roberts is scheduled to appear at Wednesday at the Wichita Country Club.

So constituents have taken to congressional Facebook pages as one of the few ways they can get the ear of their member of Congress, sort of. It’s more likely that they’ll reach the eyeball of a staffer who may or may not convey the message.

A few of the less caustically worded recent posts from Roberts’ Facebook feed:

I tried for days to reach you about important issues but you just ignored me and all the rest of us. … You’re the swamp and I will remember this. So will a lot of your constituents.

You need to hold a Town Hall. Don’t run away from us!

Where is OUR townhall? WE pay your salary. If you’re scared then that seems to indicate you know you’ve acted against your constituents.

This week’s efforts have been dubbed the Resistance Recess by MoveOn.org. And a grassroots website, the Town Hall Project, is a go-to place to find events state-by-state.

An organized group of voters in the Kansas City area knew that a town hall wasn’t likely to be hosted by any of the four Republicans they’ve been chasing in recent weeks. So IndivisibleKC flipped the script, scheduling a town hall Wednesday on health care and inviting the politicians.

The group knows they’re not coming.

Four empty chairs will be set up for the 6 p.m. event at Overland Park Christian Church. Each chair will have a politician’s portrait propped on it, signifying the no-shows. “Missing: Jerry Moran.” “Missing: Kevin Yoder. “Missing: Lynn Jenkins.” “Missing: Pat Roberts.”

This is the same group that has been gathering with dozens of people at noon every Tuesday at local congressional offices. They wish to pitch their views and disenchantment with many aspects of President Donald Trump’s first weeks in office, along with views on a range of topics like repealing the Affordable Care Act and climate change.

A similar town hall targeted at Moran is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Grace United Methodist Church in Olathe.

No one likes to be scolded. No one wants to endure a public takedown. Politicians understandably flinch, knowing that someone could film an embarrassing exchange, itching for video that can go viral online. To be fair, Democrats hedged on town halls five years ago.

But members of Congress signed up for this when they ran for office. They were elected to serve. And not just to adoring crowds, kissing cute babies and shaking the hands of veterans for touching photo ops.

Representing the people means showing up, even when the exchange may not be among friends.

 
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