Put The Pitchfork Away And Put The Torch In The Bathtub

Jeff Zeleny at NYT:

The reception that Representative Frank Kratovil Jr., a Democrat, received here one night last week as he faced a small group of constituents was far more pleasant than his encounters during a Congressional recess last summer.

Then, he was hanged in effigy by protesters. This time, a round of applause was followed by a glass of chilled wine, a plate of crackers and crudités as he mingled with an invitation-only audience at the Point Breeze Credit Union, a vastly different scene than last year’s wide-open televised free-for-alls.

The sentiment that fueled the rage during those Congressional forums is still alive in the electorate. But the opportunities for voters to openly express their displeasure, or angrily vent as video cameras roll, have been harder to come by in this election year.

If the time-honored tradition of the political meeting is not quite dead, it seems to be teetering closer to extinction. Of the 255 Democrats who make up the majority in the House, only a handful held town-hall-style forums as legislators spent last week at home in their districts.

It was no scheduling accident.

With images of overheated, finger-waving crowds still seared into their minds from the discontent of last August, many Democrats heeded the advice of party leaders and tried to avoid unscripted question-and-answer sessions. The recommendations were clear: hold events in controlled settings — a bank or credit union, for example — or tour local businesses or participate in community service projects.

And to reach thousands of constituents at a time, without the worry of being snared in an angry confrontation with voters, more lawmakers are also taking part in a fast-growing trend: the telephone town meeting, where chances are remote that a testy exchange will wind up on YouTube.

Ed Morrissey:

Nancy Pelosi assured America that we would love ObamaCare as soon as it became law.  Why then are Democrats putting themselves on milk cartons in their districts during recesses?   If ObamaCare is such a great deal, wouldn’t these supporters be rushing to hold open forums to accept the love and gratitude of their constituents?

Speaking of Milk Carton Democrats, the Times notices that an original MCD has gone back into hiding, and points out her hypocrisy:

In New Hampshire, where open political meetings are deeply ingrained in the state’s traditions, Representative Carol Shea-Porter’s campaign Web site had this message for visitors: “No upcoming events scheduled. Please visit us again soon!”

Ms. Shea-Porter, a Democrat, attended a state convention of letter carriers on Saturday, but she did not hold a town-hall-style meeting during the Congressional recess. In 2006, when she was an underdog candidate for the House, she often showed up at the meetings of her Republican rival, Representative Jeb Bradley, to question him about Iraq.

Shea-Porter would not be in Congress at all if it weren’t for her histrionics at Bradley’s public meetings.  She owes her position to openness and accountability, more than most of her colleagues.  Shea-Porter’s repaying her constituents by hiding out and stonewalling.

For a bunch of class warriors, the majority party sure seems intent on setting themselves up as an American nobility.  They want to exercise their power without having to account for themselves to the people they rule who send them to represent their interests, as if mixing with commoners has become somehow beneath them.  The “commoners” need to send them a big reminder in November about who works for whom in the American political system, and Shea-Porter needs to be the first to go.

Vodka Pundit:

Avoid them now, and they’ll for sure remember you at the polls in November. Let them vent, and they might — might — relax enough to stay home in the Fall.

But if anyone anywhere had been counting on our Democratic majority to take some action other than the stupid and self-destructive one, hasn’t been paying attention the last few years.

Bill Dupray:

What a bunch of spineless, elitist cupcakes. Keep in mind that a politician is only afraid to meet with constituents when he is governing against their will – which is usually followed shortly thereafter by being voted out of office.

Doug Mataconis:

You can certainly understand why a politician would do this. Nobody wants to be subjected to repeated instances numerous instances of being shouted at by crowds of people, and there’s certainly justification for calling Congressman who avoid their constituents cowardly as Stephen Green and others have.

There is, however, another side to the story. I was never that much of a fan of the town hall protests, or at least not of the versions of it that resulted in representatives being shouted down by an angry mob.

[…]

There’s nothing wrong with anger in politics, but blind, impotent rage like what we saw from many circles during the great Town Hall protests of 2009 doesn’t really accomplish anything other than convince your opponents that their opinions of you are correct.

Take your anger and put it to good use on Election Day.

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