This week marks the first full week Congress is in recess since Donald Trump’s inauguration and many Congressmen and women are using the opportunity to host town halls with their constituents. However, North Carolina’s two senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, seem to have other plans, as did local representative George Holding.
Town halls are typically held so that representatives and their constituents can meet face to face and participate in constructive dialogue. These town halls are commonplace for members of Congress, but in light of the recent protests and results of other town halls, our North Carolina representatives are skipping out. Instead, Tillis is taking a tour of the border between the United States and Mexico, while Burr is out of the country. Holding has not released a statement about his plans.
Town halls represent an integral part of democracy. They present an opportunity for representatives to hear their constituents views, the idea being that they can modify their platforms to fit what their constituents, or the people who vote for them, desire. This is essentially the job of representatives: to represent their constituents views. It is quite literally where the name of their position comes from. However, if representatives refuse to listen to the voices of their constituents and instead say, write them off as being paid protesters, they fail to do their job. In this is where the central problem with the lack of town halls lies.
The fact that Tillis and Burr refuse to host town halls represents the beginning of a slippery slope for politicians and government officials. At the moment, Tillis and Burr still accept phone calls and respond to the occasional letter, but what’s to stop them from claiming that these letters have become overly aggressive and stop accepting them? If United States representatives stop attending town halls, where will they draw the line?
Various groups around North Carolina, and the country, have been hosting mock town halls where they pose questions and protest the absence of their representatives. They have also begun organizing for future elections and protests. Right now, it is too soon to tell the extent to which Republicans will ignore their constituents, but if they continue on this path they will create a major divide between Congress and “regular people”. As time goes on it is important for constituents who care about these issues to continue to protest, hold their legislators accountable and when the next election comes around, make sure to vote.