Since the November election, Congressman Jeff Denham’s indifference to voters in his own district has become increasingly evident. When his political party was out of power and all that could be done was obstruct, Denham quietly served as a dead weight anchor, accomplishing nothing and stopping others from moving forward to solve problems. Now that Congressman Denham has his preferred president, he’s ducked any leadership role on the issues and avoided constituents. The biggest controversy he’s engaged in since the election is his refusal to hold an in-person town hall meeting within his district.
Techniques of Avoidance
Teleconferences and mailers have replaced in-person town hall meetings. Since the election, he has sent one mailer asking for constituents’ opinions on what is important and held two “telephone town hall meetings.” Ironically, Mr. Denham discouraged citizen participation in both telephone meetings by the manner in which he set them up. He held the evening phone festivals without giving the public advance notice. Most people are busy with family activities in the evening hours. Caller ID identified the U.S. Government, not Jeff Denham as the caller. How many citizens did not answer their phones because they thought the caller was a scammer? Crooks are using the U.S. Government caller ID label to bilk citizens out of tens of millions of dollars. The Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration have repeatedly stated that they don’t make cold calls. Who would have expected a call from a their congressman under the U.S. Government caller ID? Why wasn’t Denham’s name on caller ID?
Controlling the Environment
Congressman Denham may have been shaken up by previous in-person town hall meetings with Tea Party participants. The local newspaper reported that Tea Party members screamed at him. Since the bad experience, Mr. Denham has sought out controlled environments to interact with constituents. The telephone conference limits speakers to one at a time. He can cut off a hostile caller, can answer questions without challenge to his statements, can deprive listeners of interaction between each other, and can start and end the meeting at will. He can also plant callers who will only make positive statements about his performance in office. During the last campaign, Congressman Denham substituted TV advertising and campaign mailers for personal appearances as much as possible. With lots of special interest money already, he sees no need for meeting ordinary constituents in public.
Real Reason to Avoid Town Hall
Thus far, President Trump’s policy decisions offer almost no benefits to the majority of Mr. Denham’s constituents. This may be the most important reason that Mr. Denham has avoided in-person town hall meetings—he has to be genuinely scared that those hurt by Trump’s decisions will scream much more loudly than the Tea Party did. In fact, he may be concerned about violence. There are rumors of out-of-town agitators. But between repeal of the Affordable Care Act, persecution of Muslims, and changes to the treatment of immigrants, Mr. Denham need not worry about angry out-of-towners. He would find plenty of his own constituents available to scream at any in-person town hall meeting. Perhaps he is wise to stay hidden.
About The Author
Bruce Frohman served on the Modesto City Council from 1999-2003. He believes the best way to build a better community is to have an informed citizenry.