Well-organized and respectful. And emotionally controlled. These are not the descriptors I have in mind when thinking about town hall meetings. These are not basic rules that are followed when emotions and fears are high. As I have written here before, we have Mitch McConnell and the Tea Party to thank for that. There are also certain factions on the left that are using the same tactics.
Unfortunately, politics is theater. And the theatrics of hysterics plays well in the media age.
But politics is–in an ideal world–about the exchange of ideas for the purpose of meeting in the middle. How is this possible without mutual respect and an open mind? More to the point, how is this possible without true representation in government? I arrived at last night’s meeting knowing that Congressmen Adam Kinzinger had, again, declined to come to the meeting. Apparently, this has happened several times before.
Thankfully, politics is theater. And the discontent of 150 constituents was heard last night.
In the real world of tweets and Facebook posts and “old-fashioned” radio, the organizers with the local Action Steps for America put together some theater. Emotionally but not frantically, articulately but not inaccessibly, the members of the community spoke their grievances to an empty suit on stage. After each question, Kinzinger’s suit was asked to respond. He was speechless.
Will he remain speechless after hearing questions on social and traditional media? I am not a Twitter-head, but I may be soon. I have never closely followed local political leaders with connections to Washington. I want to hear his responses on many important issues that were brought up. The repeal and replace of the ACA was the biggest concern of the night, with several constituents standing up bravely to tell their stories of before the ACA and during the ACA. “What will you do, Representative Kinzinger, to assure a viable fix or replacement?” Police action in the name of immigration “reform” also got air time. The director of the local group that combats violence against women raised concerns about defunding. Concerns about the environment and international relations were aired.
Many of these issues are in areas where Kinzinger has specific influence. He has seats on the House Committee of Energy & Commerce and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
I went to the organizing meeting for Action Steps for America at the local library last Saturday. On the way home, I asked myself why it took me 40 years to get involved. On my way home from the town hall meeting, I asked myself the same question. The idea of becoming more than a keyboard warrior finally has some substance.
I also asked myself why there was not more representation of college students. I asked myself who might be interested in seeing the political theater. My international students? The members of the Black Male Initiative? Or conservatives who also have serious concerns about the way President T is conducting the government?
What kind of quid pro quo would there need to be for a citizen of conservative ideals to come to a lefty-organized town hall for the purposes of representing conscience on the Right?