Republicans who won after town halls now avoiding them
Republicans who benefited from rowdy town halls six years ago and harnessed a wave of discontent with Democrats to win seats in Congress are learning a hard lesson this week as they return home: The left is happy to return the favor.
Across the U.S., Democrats and their allies are spending this short congressional recess protesting elected Republican politicians who are avoiding the events that often turn into shouting matches.
Just like the tea party sympathizers who vented against Democrats and President Barack Obama, the new left and left-leaning protesters are taking out their ire on Republicans and their links to President Donald Trump.
In Ohio, citizens concerned about repeal of the federal health care law and stoked by liberal groups opposed to Trump’s actions have organized town halls across the battleground state during this week’s congressional recess.
Most Republican congressional representatives are skipping the events, often citing schedule conflicts.
Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a conservative and 10-year House veteran, is an exception. He attended events in his district Monday and engaged with protesters who showed up.
But on Tuesday and Wednesday, constituents seeking town halls demonstrated at the offices of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and U.S. Reps. Bob Gibbs, Mike Turner, Bob Latta and Steve Chabot, all Republicans.
Other Ohioans have joined thousands of citizens nationally to sign online petitions at Change.org requesting access to their congressional representatives, in the wake of the tumultuous first month of Trump’s administration.
Experts say that avoiding town halls is a tactic used by incumbents to dodge being berated in widely publicized local events.
“If you’re there at a town hall meeting and there’s hundreds of people there yelling at you, it’s going to be a media event,” said Seth Masket, a political scientist at the University of Denver “They’re calculating that the bad press they’re going to get from not having a town hall is not going to be as bad as that.”
In Montana, Republican Sen. Steve Daines got waylaid with boos and jeers from hundreds of protesters just for rescheduling an appearance before state lawmakers in Helena from Tuesday to Wednesday.
And Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert announced he opted for telephone town halls because groups from what he called “violent strains of the leftist ideology...are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety.”