One thing that’s as true now as it was in 2016 is that people fucking hate Congress. And while there’s been recent backlash against House candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for barring the press from a public event, at least she had the guts to face the people who are likely going to be her constituents. It turns out her would-be colleagues aren’t even bothering with that.
Politico reports that during this August recess—which, according to the official Senate website, serves as a chance for senators to “meet with constituents in their home states”— members of Congress have scheduled a grand total of 180 in-person events for the whole month, good enough for a “nearly 70 percent decrease from the same time last year”; in August 2016, members held “roughly” 450 public meetings, and in August 2014, they held nearly 550. It’s part of a larger trend: Politico says that there’s been “roughly a 30 percent drop” in town halls and “similar events” held between January and August compared to the same period last year, according to the volunteer-driven website Town Hall Project.
It’s pretty clear why lawmakers aren’t holding town halls anymore; they’re tired of being viscerally owned in front of cameras and hundreds of people. Last year, crowds packed town halls to protest Republican attempts to gut the Affordable Care Act, and earlier this year, against conservative support for the NRA. Soon after Trump’s inauguration, Virginia Rep. Dave Brat told a conservative audience that, “Since Obamacare and these issues have come up, the women are in my grill no matter where I go.”
According to Politico, Brat hasn’t held a town hall in “more than a year,” despite the fact that his district is very much in play. Gee, I wonder why.
It’s not just Republicans, either. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York hasn’t held a town hall in this entire Congress, according to Politico; in July, Schumer canceled an in-person town hall in Brooklyn, citing a plane equipment problem. He held a telephone town hall that night instead, but has yet to reschedule the live town hall, Politico says. “It’s crazy that Chuck Schumer, who wasn’t up for reelection—he’s safe—he has been actively avoiding our constituents,” Angel Padilla, the policy director at progressive political group Indivisible, told Politico.
Here’s to hoping that after November, most of the members of Congress fretting over facing their constitutents won’t have to worry about it anymore.