Town Hall Meetings and Adults Behaving Badly
CBS 13 Sacramento captured it best on April 17 following another shout-down town-hall meeting, this event hosted in Oroville by Northern California Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-1) for his constituents.
A 16-year-old student attending the meeting to hear his representative in Washington noted that, “The immaturity was astounding,” at the town hall compared to an earlier event at his high school where LaMalfa spoke to a student-body assembly.
“Night and day,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that these people are older than the people at my high school.”
LaMalfa’s constituents remarked at the hijacking of the community forum by those who came not for dialog but for confrontation.
Across the country, political discourse has ground to a halt by guerrilla tactics that flaunt civility and courtesy, replacing them with hostility and rudeness. The protestors follow a playbook written by Democratic Congressional staffers they say was based on Tea Party organizing principles.
They ignore that the Tea Party was founded in decentralized and spontaneous groups, not driven from the top-down by party professionals.
Slowly, elected officials of both parties are beginning to get a handle on managing crowds made up of organized disrupters from outside their districts.
At a town hall held by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA-10) held in Stanislaus County the same evening was much less contentious. Denham barred entry to all without identification showing they resided in his district, and most of the resistance was seated in a single area, allowing better control of the meeting and discussion.
There is always risk when tempers flare, especially when those on opposite sides of hot issues confront one another publicly. Recently, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA-4) asked Placer County sheriff’s officers to escort him from a theater venue and Roseville town hall when he felt threatened.
Large group meetings soon may be replaced with smaller, private, invitation-only gatherings or meetings within the elected officials’ district offices if the disruptions continue.
If our nation cannot engage in public dialog over important issues in an atmosphere where there is both freedom to speak and freedom to listen to others’s ideas because of a minority rabble, our freedom itself will become the victim.
One must simply ask, “Why do you feel that your outrage over the last election confers on you police powers to quell liberties set forth in our nation’s Constitution?”
It’s ironic that a 16-year-old youth can see more clearly than many adults, and that’s a tragedy for our democracy.