With images of overheated, finger-waving crowds still seared into their minds from the discontent of last August, many Democrats heeded the advice of party leaders and tried to avoid unscripted question-and-answer sessions. The recommendations were clear: hold events in controlled settings — a bank or credit union, for example — or tour local businesses or participate in community service projects.For more context, see a good TPM piece from April.
OK, a few comments. First, I do think this is sad. Town hall meetings, as Zeleny describes, are hardly the only way that Members meet with voters, but they are a way to invite all citizens to ask questions in public, in a fairly formal setting. It's the kind of thing that most of us intuitively feel is good for democracy, even if it's more the texture than the substance of democracy -- democracy needs texture, too.
It's also probably a consequence of very large House districts. With 750K constituents per Member of the House...well, one percent of that is 7500, and one percent of that is
Third point: for those who think that Democrats in Congress are a bunch of 'fraidy cats, this is pretty good evidence. C'mon! You can't handle a few people asking crazy questions? You're afraid of YouTube? You're supposed to be major league politicians! The truth is, a halfway-decent pol should have little trouble handling this sort of thing, and there are thousands of liberals in each of these districts (which, you know, were by definition once willing to elect a Democrat to Congress) who would love to see their Member stand up to the crazy. I don't have a link, but Al Franken did just that at a county fair or something like that last summer, and liberals loved it. Really; for a good pol, this should be an opportunity, not something to duck.
(Update: math fixed. See comments below.)