Are Town Halls More Trouble Than They're Worth? Two-thirds of Texas Reps Are Skipping Them

Fewer than a third of Texas' congressional delegation plan to host town halls during Congress' August recess. Although constituents often expect open forums, more representatives are instead opting to host easier-to-control telephone town halls, small constituent meetings at their offices, or other platforms for constituent engagement out of the spotlight.Failure to repeal or replace Obamacare leaves House Republicans with few accomplishments to tout at home. And face time with constituents that can humanize lawmakers can just as easily open up shouting matches with angry constituents, leaving many representatives wondering if town halls are worth it."The initial object of a town hall is keeping in touch and keeping the lines of communication open between members and their districts," said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project. "They have also become symbolic for whether a member is in touch or not, and opportunities for other positive and negative publicity. That changes the nature of the events, and it changes members' calculus."A lot of their value also boils down to technology. "Town halls now have become such a flash point because of media, because they go viral," Dr. Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, an adjunct professor of public affairs at the University of Texas. "You have folks in there being loud and screaming or having really compelling stories that are shared on Facebook or YouTube, and before that really didn't happen."  Continue reading...

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