“Town Hall Meetings”

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader read an interesting opinion piece on the WaPo last week. It is Today’s Town Halls a Departure From de Tocqueville, Rockwell by Phillip Kennicott. In it Kennicott spends a whole opinion column without giving his opinion on the whole topic of “town hall meetings.” Your Maximum Leader will remedy this by giving you his opinion of “town hall meetings.”

Your Maximum Leader is a strong advocate of thoughtful debate. He enjoys going to listen to people (hopefully people with some measure of expertise) discuss issues of the day. He imagines that he would greatly enjoy participating in one of the (mythological) town hall meetings depicted by Norman Rockwell (and mentioned/debunked in Kennicott’s piece). Participatory democracy has its place in small homogeneous groups, like small close-knit rural communities or in Robert Nozick’s ideal minimal states. The keys to having such a town hall meeting work are listening and thoughtful response.

Alas, what passes for a “town hall meeting” today is not at all what your Maximum Leader wants to think about as a “town hall meeting” except in as much as the meeting might take place in a town hall or other public building. Let us first agree to call these meetings “Q&A sessions with ‘decision makers’” because that is what they really are supposed to be. You get a Congressman or Senator (or Administration Official - or President Obama) standing in front of a bunch of people answering questions that are asked. Nothing is actually to be decided at these meetings. No policy is actually going to be made. No amendments offered to legislation. No county codes adopted. These are glorified question and answer sessions.

Of course, when you add uncertainty, fear, arrogance, and single-mindedness to a question and answer period you get what we’ve been seeing around the country in the past few weeks. These aren’t really question and answer periods. They are open mic sessions at your local school where you can say whatever crosses your mind. This goes equally for the citizens and the “decision makers.” There are no subject matter experts (for the most part) at these meetings. The decision makers don’t know what the hell they’re doing. And the angry citizens don’t know much except that they are angry.

These meetings should be called “name-calling recrimination meetings.”

This is not to say that your Maximum Leader isn’t sympathetic to the average citizen who is afraid of what his government is contemplating doing to the nation’s health care system. In fact, your Maximum Leader is just as appalled as those people who seem to make the highlight reels on every newscast. If your Maximum Leader were to attend one of these shindigs he would not be inclinded to call people “nazis” (unless he were sure they actually were) or reference how they will surely meet with a dire heavenly judgement (like the President said once, that judgement is above his pay-grade). Your Maximum Leader would really have liked to ask the President at his “town hall” one question. That question would be “Mr. President, where exactly can I find the legislation that constitutes your health care plan? I’d like to read your plan and not one of the dozen proposals in front of Congress that is not your plan.” To your Maximum Leader’s knowledge President Obama references his plan a lot; but no one has read the legislative text of that plan. One could stop a lot of “misinformation” about death panels and such if you actually had a single presidential plan to which to refer…

Ah well… Your Maximum Leader has thought that in the mainstream public forum true political discourse is dead in America. You have to go to small blogs and niche publications to get real discourse and discussion. It is out there; but you will not find it at NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN or Fox…

Carry on.

1 Comment »
Kevin Kim said:

“Alas, what passes for a ‘town hall meeting’ today is not at all what your Maximum Leader wants to think about as a ‘town hall meeting’ except in as much as the meeting might take place in a town hall or other public building.”

You might prefer the Swiss model, with its cantonal referenda.


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