The Death of Town Hall Meetings in America

The Death of Town Hall Meetings in America

Congressional Republicans have unsurprisingly received criticism for calling out leftist protesters who are part of a nationally coordinated campaign to hijack their town hall meetings. These forums have become such a media spectacle that Senator Marco Rubio decided to forgo town halls all together.

This has raised the question of whether or not the town hall meeting is indeed dead in America.

Norman Rockwell’s 1941 print, Freedom of Speech is my favorite representation of a town hall meeting.  Hanging prominently on my office wall, I’m inspired by the artwork depicting a lone dissenter, Jim Edgerton, standing up in a town hall meeting in opposition to a proposal for a new school.

Rockwell illustrates Mr. Edgerton, and his minority point of view, with Lincolnesque dignity, symbolizing how we, the people, drive democracy and how democracy empowers all of its people.  It captures the greatness of our nation in a New England town hall meeting during the Great Depression.

However, the good old days of democratic discourse at town hall meetings idealized by Rockwell are well behind us.  I would argue that town halls no longer serve as a stage for genuine voices to be heard, ideas to be exchanged, and everyday citizens to participate in our political processes.

Instead, town hall meetings have been overtaken by leftist professional protesters who are either paid or scripted to disrupt, distract and in many cases destroy any meaningful dialogue on public policy.

Recently, Senator Marco Rubio received a lot of media criticism for not holding town hall meetings.  In a recent interview with a Miami news outlet he said, “They are not town halls anymore. What these groups really want is for me to schedule a public forum, they then organize three, four, five, six hundred liberal activists…heckling and screaming at me in front of cameras.”

Senator Rubio is right and he correctly identified the X-factor that has led to the death of town hall meetings in America.

This X-factor is very simple to see and understand: Protesters do not exist without the news media and the news media needs the protesters for conflict, which is why both are so critical of republicans like Senator Rubio, who’ve opted out of the town hall forum.

The news media expects professional protesters to hijack town hall meetings enabling reporters to repeat the well-played narrative of angry citizens mobilizing to voice their concerns.

Unlike the organic uprising of the Tea Party movement, the news media must assist liberal groups to propagate the Jerry Springer narrative showcasing republicans under fire and out of touch with their so-called real constituents.

In reality, these conflicts are leftist illusions manufactured by DC-centric professional protesters who are paid to coach, direct and mobilize local activists to torpedo the forum in order to advance their political agenda of divisiveness.

Recent town halls meetings sponsored by Congressmen Gus Bilirakis from the Tampa Bay area and Matt Gaetz from the Florida Panhandle were hijacked by these leftist professional protesters generating front page, headline, breaking news.

By comparison, Democratic Congressman Darren Soto of the Orlando area had a very quiet town hall meeting.  His forum turned into a mutual admiration society that was so civil that the Congressman had to prompt the audience with questions to see if there was anyone in opposition.  As you can guess, there wasn’t as much media coverage on his town hall.

Sadly, we can no longer expect to hear the voice of Jim Edgerton standing up for his unscripted beliefs at a town hall meeting.  This once-popular public platform has been terminally dismantled by leftist activist groups who are adept at exploiting public fears and anger. Town hall meetings have become outdated and ineffective as a useful means of educating and connecting with the public.  They’re nothing more than an activist vehicle that fuels anxieties and manufactures illusions via the news and social media.

Republicans who have endured these Astroturf protests are to be commended.  However, they would be better served by empowering constituents with public forums such as Twitter, tele-town halls or membership groups that preclude the tactics of leftist protesters who are hell-bent on undermining our democratic way of life.

Patrick Slevin is a former Florida mayor who leads his global consulting practice SL7 Consulting, headquartered in Tallahassee, Florida.  Go to for more information about his firm.  

13 Responses to "The Death of Town Hall Meetings in America"

  1. I’ve never been a fan of these “meetings”. When they were under control, the speaker talked most of the meeting time, delivering a slanted message design to lead the audience somewhere while being short of verifiable facts. Q&A was relatively short, sometimes the Questions had to be screened to see if that one would be allowed. The answers usually were a reiteration of the talking points delivered in the speech before Q&A.
    And then there are always the angry guys who rage on from the floor microphone. IF people had to pay 25 cents to go to one they’d all realize how a waste of money they are. And that was before the people turned into raging lunatics.

  2. And your proof that the protesters are fake/paid is? Are you and your ilk so thin-skinned that because people don’t agree with your point of view you instantly try to discredit them? It’s funny that you romanticize and long for the American democracy of the 1940s, when African-Americans couldn’t vote and we imprisoned Japanese-Americans. Really great times. We’re well on our way to making America that great again. Keep up the good work.

    1. And as a typical liberal, you attack anyone who has a different opinion. “It’s funny that you romanticize and long for the American democracy of the 1940s, when African-Americans couldn’t vote and we imprisoned Japanese-Americans. Really great times. ” How you got that from this gentleman’s article is beyond me.

  3. So let me get this straight, by going to a town hall meeting and expressing yourself you are destroying your right to go to a town hall meeting to express yourself. Unfortunately people are dumb enough to believe this.

    1. No, Rick, by going to a town hall meeting and denying the speaker an opportunity to speak is what we are talking about. Yes, the opponents of the speaker have a right to be heard. Doesn’t the speaker? Do the opponents have a right to deny the speaker HIS or HER right? That’s what happening.

  4. These leftist agitators need some rightist counter agitators to instill an attitude adjustment that will trerminate such negative waves in an effective manner, ASAP !

      1. Citizens who drown out the speaker are not there to exchange ideas, they are there to shut down opposing ideas.

  5. We all know that this is exactly what is happening, but I’ve never heard it put so cogently. Bravo, and thank you!

  6. How ironic that the leftist agitators are destroying an American hallmark, the town hall forum. By abusing their constitutional, democratic right to protest and to be heard by their elected public servants, they are shutting down meaningful discourse. They are cheating themselves from any meaningful exchange. They are not being heard.

    1. You know who is shutting down meaningful discourse? Our president and his administration. They are cheating us all of a meaningful exchange by masterfully whipping up a media circus with outrageous tweets and bald-faced lies to distract from the scrutiny they face on issues.

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