Austin Congressmen owe their voters town halls

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Congressman Lamar Smith speaks to members of College Republicans at the UTC on Feb. 15. Smith is among the Austin representatives who owes his constituents greater access.
Photo Credit: Gabriel Lopez | Daily Texan Staff

Republican lawmakers are growing ever more wary of town hall style forums. As the number of angry constituents in republican districts grow, the availability to voice their concerns directly to their representative shrink. 

Pressure is on lawmakers to take part in these public forums, in part because it has always been done that way. Lists of lawmakers who intent on avoiding town halls have been compiled, enhancing the attention on representatives to do their jobs and listen to the concerns of their constituents. This demand for action seems to have had little effect on representatives such as Jim Murphy, Myra Crownover and Drew Darby — none of whom have changed their minds about hosting a town hall.

With alarming questions about health care, the environment and immigration arising due to executive orders and congressional rulings, people are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to put pressure on their representatives. They have this right, and deserve a platform from which to voice their concerns. If all else fails, removing this platform will only serve to further anger the people these lawmakers represent, and increase the implied divide between the public and our governmental figures.

Though Republicans all over the country are avoiding town halls, seemingly in an effort to avoid confrontational questions — primarily about the replacement for Obamacare — Texas voters find themselves in a particularly difficult position, as none of the congressmen representing Central Texas have announced town halls during their recess this week. 

Voters, such as those in the district of West Campus’ own Lamar Smith, have decided to take matters into their own hands, hosting their own town halls whether their representatives plan to attend or not. This at least allows concerned citizens to gather and discuss solutions among themselves — although the efficacy of doing so with no lawmakers present is questionable. However, history has shown similar tactics to be very successful.

A Democratic movement that echoes the tactics of the conservative Tea Party has started to reveal itself in the wake of President Trump’s very active first month. This progressive group hopes to stage sit-ins and marches in an effort to put pressure on Trump’s cabinet as well as to urge Democratic lawmakers to move farther to the left. 

Republican lawmakers are concerned about the environment that may await them if they open themselves up to a public conversation. Though they cannot boast the same level of political influence as the Tea Party, the Democratic movement has gained considerable support in recent weeks, leading to a situation that closely resembles the position that Republican voters found themselves in 2010: With anxious Democratic lawmakers sidestepping town halls whenever possible to avoid difficult and often antagonistic questions about — you guessed it — Obamacare.

Texas lawmakers, in particular, are making excuses to avoid hearing the concerns of their constituents. By using safer routes such as Tele-Town Halls, they avoid the sometimes combative nature of an in person discussion, but also miss out on all of its benefits. How can representatives understand the concerns of voters if they don’t attend the forum in which they are asked? It is their choice whether they schedule these meetings or not, but they should know: Voters will not forget who took the time to listen, and who opted out.

 

Bonfiglio is a journalism junior from Oak Creek, Colorado. Follow her on Twitter @NahilaBonfiglio.