Letter to the Editor: MGP Town Halls Are Not What They Seem


Red alert. Red alert. 

Residents of the 3rd Congressional District, we are being manipulated by our current congressional representative, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, who is using a “doppelgänger” version of a “town hall” with her constituents as political showmanship rather than honest one to one dialogue with constituents.

First, a little background on town halls. The very first town hall in the United States was in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1633. Townspeople held a meeting to settle and establish methods that were to the benefit of the general population. The decisions made at these meetings were honored as law. Every man was bound to it. Town hall meetings gave locals a way to have their say in local affairs. The forum became a foundation of American democracy.

Town halls have lost their spontaneity. The constituents at Marie Gluesenkamp Perez’s first town hall were required to submit questions in advance to an idealogue, posing as a moderator, who then cherry-picked questions and decided which to read, disenfranchising the constituent of a voice and thusly “stacking the deck” and dealing Gluesenkamp Perez a royal flush full of softball questions.

Open and vigorous dialogue benefits policymakers and the public and yields understanding. Genuine understanding seems to be the exception rather than the norm. We speak at each other or past each other. Much of the time, we’re not even listening to each other at all.

The dialogue is a monologue. My objection to the “doppelgänger town hall” format used by Gluesenkamp Perez is that it is identical to that we have been seeing in the political theater, playing in America for the past 40 years. The format of these quasi town halls has been twisted from one on one honest dialogue between parties to a scripted presentation run by an ideological clone of the politician, “the moderator.” 

This is much like Japanese Kabuki theater and is used to describe an event characterized more by showmanship than by content. American political pundits have described the political showmanship and posturing as “Kabuki” to mean “style over substance.” Town halls run in this manner are tightly controlled and only fuel public anger and skepticism about the political process.

If Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez really wanted to find out what the concerns of her constituents were and their questions on her policies — or allow them to express their frustrations with what they see in the political circus we have been witnessing in Washington D.C., the past two years or what they feel she should advocate for the 3rd District — she should change her town hall format to one of open and unscripted dialogue. One with her and her constituents and lose the moderator. In addition, she should hang around and get to know her people up front and personally.

Town halls are a great way for politicians to get eyeball to eyeball, voice to voice, with their constituents in an open, unscripted, free-flowing group that honestly and respectfully seeks mutual understanding on issues that impact us all in a very real way.


Neil Stewart