Congress not so hot at Town Hall meetings

Politico:

Screaming constituents, protesters dragged out by the cops, congressmen fearful for their safety — welcome to the new town-hall-style meeting, the once-staid forum that is rapidly turning into a house of horrors for members of Congress.

On the eve of the August recess, members are reporting meetings that have gone terribly awry, marked by angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior. In at least one case, a congressman has stopped holding town hall events because the situation has spiraled so far out of control.

“I had felt they would be pointless,” Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) told POLITICO, referring to his recent decision to temporarily suspend the events in his Long Island district. “There is no point in meeting with my constituents and [to] listen to them and have them listen to you if what is basically an unruly mob prevents you from having an intelligent conversation.”

In Bishop’s case, his decision came on the heels of a June 22 event he held in Setauket, N.Y., in which protesters dominated the meeting by shouting criticisms at the congressman for his positions on energy policy, health care and the bailout of the auto industry.

Within an hour of the disruption, police were called in to escort the 59-year-old Democrat — who has held more than 100 town hall meetings since he was elected in 2002 — to his car safely.

...

Bishop isn’t the only one confronted by boiling anger and rising incivility. At a health care town hall event in Syracuse, N.Y., earlier this month, police were called in to restore order, and at least one heckler was taken away by local police. Close to 100 sign-carrying protesters greeted Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) at a late June community college small-business development forum in Panama City, Fla. Last week, Danville, Va., anti-tax tea party activists claimed they were “refused an opportunity” to ask Rep. Thomas Perriello (D-Va.) a question at a town hall event and instructed by a plainclothes police officer to leave the property after they attempted to hold up protest signs.

The targets in most cases are House Democrats, who over the past few months have tackled controversial legislation including a $787 billion economic stimulus package, a landmark energy proposal and an overhaul of the nation’s health care system.

Democrats, acknowledging the increasing unruliness of the town-hall-style events, say the hot-button issues they are taking on have a lot to do with it.

...

On Tuesday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who handles incumbent retention duties for House Democrats in addition to chairing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, met with freshman members to discuss their plans for the monthlong August recess. While the specific issue of town hall protesters never came up, according to sources familiar with the meeting, he urged them not to back away from opponents.

“He said, ‘Go on offense. Stay on the offense. It’s really important that your constituents hear directly from you. You shouldn’t let a day go by [that] your constituents don’t hear from you,’” said one House Democratic leadership aide familiar with the meeting.

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Some time Democrats can be pretty dense and this appears to be one of those times. The passionate voters they are seeing are that way because they do not like the policies that Democrats are trying to push on us. If they think these people are passionate now, they should see them coming out of the voting booths in 2010. If Democrats go on offense against these people they will find their constituents getting even more motivated to get them out of office.

If Democrats can't read the polls and the passions of the crowd they will deserve to get the defeat they have coming.

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