Last Friday, Rep. Peter Roskam was on Fox News. The congressman must like Fox News. Nobody gives him a hard time.
What Roskam, a Republican from Naperville, does not like is meeting with actually voters, not unless he can hand-pick them. He has refused for months to hold a town meeting in his 6th Congressional district, saying the sessions too often become “shouting matches” and are “not productive.” Instead, he meets with small groups of constituents in private sessions, which is to say he ducks.
Roskam also conducts telephone town halls, in lieu of the real thing. He fields questions from a dozen or so listeners, who must sign up in advance via a web site. He says these phone sessions are “productive” and “highly interactive,” but he’s ducking again.
In a democracy, an elected official should meet with the voters regularly and often, even the ones who don’t particularly like him. A town hall meeting can get raucous, especially nowadays, but a skilled politician weathers the storm, hears out the critics and gains grudging respect for doing so. Once folks have blown off steam, future sessions tend to calm down.
Roskam misses the point. Or maybe he lacks courage. A town hall meeting may not result in a “productive” discussion of public policy, but it sends a message that he is listening to his constituents. The same way he listens to lobbyists with money.
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