When you write for a political blog, there is an understanding that a group of people will disagree with whatever you post, regardless of the subject matter. This is one of those times that people I truly respect, including some members of Congress, will disagree with me. It is okay to hold and discuss differing opinions, though.
One of the largest contentions I had with my former Representative John Barrow (D, GA-12) was his apparent aversion to listening to different opinions than his own. I often complained of the lack of in-person town halls that would have allowed opposing voices to be heard in a public forum. Rep. Barrow would occasionally have an hour-long “Congress on the Corner” session where his staff was “available to help anyone with problems they may be having with a government agency, such as the Social Security Administration, Medicare, or the Veterans Administration.” Important, indeed, but not the right type of venue for discussing political issues. He also occasionally had telephone town halls that were not conducive to sharing opposing opinions, as we were told that those asking the questions were pre approved prior to the call.
The problem is that now most of our Republican Representatives from Georgia are resorting to just having telephone town halls. As a former Party first flag bearer, I can attest to the fact that it is so easy to find yourself in an echo chamber where people shout “Amen!” to everything you say. However, this can lead to a person becoming deaf to the concerns of those who may hold a different view. People often get frustrated with politicians because they feel their voice is not being heard, and I can see the rising tide of those who are growing more and more frustrated with the political process. The time to listen is now before the voters ultimately share their voice at the polls.
I have been involved in politics and political campaigns for a long time, so I fully comprehend the political reasoning behind the decision not to hold in-person town halls, but it does not make it the right decision. I recently had an opportunity to sit in with Rep. Mark Sanford (R, SC-1) and he stated that he has never experienced the current political divide in all his years in politics. He shared the story of going to a nursing home and hearing residents yelling, cussing, and putting down one another over politics. He also shared that town halls had become full of vitriol and usually began with a period of people shouting at you. The fact of the matter, though, is that he was still holding town halls and going to the people, which Representatives are supposed to do.
Kudos to Rep. Buddy Carter (R, GA-1) for holding nine town halls and Rep. Doug Collins (R, GA-9) for holding one during the August recess. According to the AJC, Rep. Carter was one of only 10 Georgia GOP House members to hold a town hall during the February break. The AJC also reports that the only Democratic Representative from Georgia holding a town hall will be Rep. David Scott (D, GA-13).