Omair Ali

Perspectives Editor

In a time when people grow impatient as they desire clarity and truth from the politicians they elected, political discourse in the town hall meeting seems like a wonderful idea to facilitate communication between concerned civilians and Washington D.C. officials.

Town hall meetings operate in an open forum format, where the politician’s constituents attend the meeting and are allowed to speak with their representatives by asking them questions or commenting on the issues that afflict them. Politicians can be present at town hall meetings by physically being in attendance of the meeting or being present through another source (i.e., phone, internet, etc.). In theory, it’s a very simple idea that is designed to effectively promote the cause of democracy by engaging the constituents of a community with their elected congressman.

Last week, Senator Tom Cotton held a townhall meeting in his home state of Arkansas, allowing constituents to have a platform to express his views. However, the event was not necessarily organized in a pleasant manner, as raucous crowds of people were gathered and did not allow for the principles of open dialogue to be upheld. There are ongoing rumors that suggest that paid protestors attend town hall meetings such as the one organized by Tom Cotton, but these rumors are unproven, and have already been deemed false by Politifact. However, if paid protesters interfere with the process of town hall meetings in the future, then they would compromise the legitimacy and effectiveness of these events.

As a supporter of political dialogue, I believe that the intentions of town hall meetings are very reasonable and have the capacity to be productive. However, when town hall meetings become rallies that also seem to discourage other perspectives, they become purposeless. This raises the question of whether a town hall meeting would be appropriate at Benedictine University for the community-at-large.

Bringing town hall meetings to Benedictine University would be a very interesting idea, but its effectiveness would be contingent on a few factors: Attendance, interest, and concerns. Attendance is essential at a town hall meeting because it indirectly indicates the concerns that a community has. Community-wide interest in having a town hall meeting is important because a meeting of this caliber must serve a purpose that can be addressed effectively by a politician. Finally, constituents at a town hall meeting must have legitimate concerns that warrant the attention of the district’s politician; complaints about the illegitimacy of President Trump would not constitute as valid complaints, but concerns about tax laws or health care would require a politician to explain to its constituents in detail. I still think a town hall meeting at Benedictine University would be a very interesting proposition that could gather a significant crowd from the Naperville community, but the need for a meeting of this kind in our community is certainly up for debate.

In general, town hall meetings show promise in the present as useful events to dissipate any hysteria and mistrust that might afflict members of a community, and also to educate citizens on bills that are being discussed in Congress. Because of this, I would love to participate in town hall meetings, or at the very least be in attendance.