Welcome to our special issue on attending a town hall meeting this week!
What are we doing?
This week Congress is in recess and doing its “District Days”: Senators and representatives travel back to their home districts to meet with constituents in town hall meetings. Progressives nationwide are taking advantage of these meetings to ask hard questions and relay concerns to their representatives.
Who is going?
You may have heard of the Indivisible Guide, which was written by former Congressional staffers in the aftermath of Trump’s election. The Indivisible team recommends that progressives adopt tried and true grassroots tactics. One of these is showing up at town hall meetings, posing questions, telling personal stories, and demanding accountability.
Look up an Indivisible group near you; these folks are excited to put Indivisible principles to practice. If you can’t find an existing group, see if you can recruit some friends or family to head over to support you.
Where and when are the town halls?
Town halls are taking place all week beginning today, February 20th. Use the Town Hall Project’s website to find a meeting near you.
Just a warning, though. Some GOP legislators are skipping their town hall meetings, or opting for the more controlled environment of a “Tele-Town Hall.” If your members of Congress aren’t holding town halls, your workout is to write and call their offices asking for in-person events. If a tele-town hall is all you’re getting, take a deep breath, sign up, and ask your hard-hitting questions via this format. (Here’s one for starters: “Where are you teleconferencing from and why aren’t you holding this town hall meeting in person?”)
How do we make our town hall meeting effective?
Before: Prepare your questions in advance, working with friends. Instead of asking a general question, do research on your specific legislator by visiting Vote Smart, typing their name into the search box, and clicking on the “positions” button. Great issues to start with: What do they plan to do to defend the Affordable Care Act? What are they doing about the #MuslimBan? With your team, pick one issue and write out a few pointed questions on a notecard to read from.
During: Get your member of Congress to call on you by raising your hand at every chance, and giving off a pleasant, polite look. You’re dealing with a politician, so you may not get a “real” answer to your question right away, but don’t be afraid to reask your question while holding onto the mic. When others are asking questions, take pictures and record videos.
After: Most newspapers and local TV stations have “news tips” sections on their websites. Share your pictures and recordings from the town hall, and post your own thoughts and reflections on the town hall on social media—tagging local reporters and your member of Congress, of course! Also search online for other places to share your media: Daily Kos, for example, is interested in all pictures, videos, and reports pertaining to town halls.
Read "Republicans Charge Into Resistance at Tumultuous Town Halls" by Matt Flegenheimer and Thomas Kaplan.
The break from Capitol Hill is doubling as a real-time stress test for both pro-Trump Republicans and anti-Trump protesters — an early signal of how much latitude will be afforded to members who continue defending the president and how much venom they are willing to absorb.