I recently had the opportunity to attend a Town Hall by Representative John Curtis, a Republican from Utah. Before taking questions, Rep. Curtis related some of his feelings about the Afghanistan evacuation and the 3.5 trillion dollar reconciliation bill. Rather than focusing on his remarks, I would like to discuss what it is like to attend a Town Hall meeting.
What is a Town Hall meeting?
A Town Hall meeting is a local event where political actors address the concerns constituents have. Typically, the politician will come prepared with a few remarks before taking questions from the audience.
The Town Hall will benefit a politician because they appear to be addressing the needs of constituents.
A Town Hall will benefit the constituents because they will learn what the politician is attempting to accomplish in the local or federal government on their behalf.
Three things to expect from those attending the event
- Those attending are likely to have the same party affiliation as the host.
Many individuals, if not all the individuals, appeared to have the same party affiliation as Rep. Curtis. Having the same party affiliation is not surprising. The event was organized by a Republican politician and held in a location where many Republicans live. Additionally, Rep. Curtis wanted to host the Town Hall with his constituents, of which many are Republican. Although Rep. Curtis would have welcomed questions from anyone, many of the questions asked resulted from widely held Republican beliefs.
There may have been other people attending with a different political affiliation. However, if they were in attendance, they did not speak up.
- The audience will agree and disagree with many of the host’s opinions.
Even those who have the same political affiliation will ask difficult questions. There were many questions relating to the Representative’s actions. Some believed that he did not do enough on particular issues. Others believed he was responsible for certain consequences. However, many others appeared to agree with Rep. Curtis on several points.
- Those asking questions typically have strong political convictions.
Constituents in attendance were, at a minimum, curious about politics. However, those who asked questions were very passionate about their convictions. Many of the individuals asking questions expected validation of their beliefs. Others wanted assurance that Rep. Curtis would take action on the issues they brought forward.
What to expect from the Town Hall host
- Answer every question
A politician who hopes to satisfy the informational needs of the constituents will try to answer every question. Rep. Curtis responded to every question asked. If a politician attempts to avoid a question, they will likely redirect or ignore the question.
- Not be able to answer every question adequately.
Although the politician may answer every question, that does not mean that every question will be answered adequately. There are some issues where coming up with a solution is very difficult. Other times, there is little a politician can do to influence solving a problem. When these two things happen, the host may not be able to provide a response that satisfies the constituent’s question.
- Defend their position
When Rep. Curtis’s position regarding elections or impeachment was attacked, he defended his position.
A politician may host a Town Hall to take questions from constituents, but must also be ready to debate a stance on particular issues. Every Town Hall I have witnessed included the element of debate. The politician feels that their position is correct; when challenged, the politician will defend their position.
Why you should participate in a town hall
- To receive political information from a primary source.
- So you can become acquainted with political involvement.
- To have your political questions answered by someone directly involved in legislative creation.