Meet the Voters (on Facebook)
When Republicans held public meetings with their constituents in February, many of the House members and senators received an earful, so few House Republicans in competitive districts have planned town hall events over the current break, which lasts until April 23. Only two of 16 swing-district Republicans who voted for the GOP health-care bill in committee, for example, are directly facing their constituents over the break, USA Today reports, based on scheduled events compiled by TownHallProject.com. And at least one of those two Republicans, Rep. Ryan Costello (Pa.), screened his audience beforehand and forbade cameras from the event.
The restrictions imposed on town hall events like Costello's have prompted jeering from Democrats and constitutional challenges from the ACLU, but the refusal of most potentially vulnerable Republicans to hold any public meeting has drawn the ire of constituents and local newspapers. Liberal organizers have taken to scheduling town hall meetings and inviting the House members to attend, putting an empty chair on stage when the invitation is declined. Many Republicans are holding forums over the phone or Facebook Live.
If the unexpectedly close special elections in reliably red districts in Georgia and Kansas are any harbinger of the 2018 midterms, Republicans have some reason to be nervous. And congressional politics watchers say that after the Democrats' brutal town halls in the ObamaCare-fueled Tea Party era of 2009 and 2010, the GOP's reluctance to meet with voters face-to-face is understandable but short-sighted.
"If there's anything worse than being on the wrong side of a political issue it's appearing cowardly and not facing your constituents," Ross Baker, a Rutgers University political scientist, tells USA Today. "Politics is all about accountability," he added. "It's not an attractive quality in an elected official to be as nervous as a Christmas goose when you're dealing with your constituents." You can read more at USA Today.