The Truth About Town Hall Meetings

Yesterday, the Obama administration distanced itself from some of the more outrageous comments made by congressional Democrats, including one made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) which labeled some critics of a government takeover of health care as “simply un-American.” Speaker Pelosi was specifically referring to those opponents who have been attending health care congressional town hall meetings, claiming that “disruptive” actions are perverting our democratic system and preventing a real dialogue between Congress and constituents.

CEI Fellow in Regulatory Studies Ryan Young made a valid point that the average town hall attendee is likely politically invested anyway:

Who goes to town hall meetings for fun? Of course the people crashing the events have an agenda. That’s the point!

Congress is certainly aware that these events are largely attended by individuals with developed political positions–meaning these aren’t the fence-sitting, largely-apathetic independents that politicians love to talk about courting–so why are some so concerned about those with differing points of view? The reason is simple: so-called “town hall meetings” are designed as media opportunities, where political machines can manufacture soundbites featuring star-struck constituents praising all the good work their elected officials are doing in Washington–for the purpose of being broadcast continuously during campaign season. When the meetings turn out to be a little different than the scripted love-fests envisioned by Capitol Hill staffers, things can turn ugly.