Biased coverage of Town Halls

I’m writing in response to Jim McConnell’s article Teeming with Anger: Town hall Signals Leftward Shift. I attended this town hall and am well aware of the many elements involved to make the audience appear “unruly.”

The backstory: Dave Brat and Amanda Chase chose to hold their town hall in Chase’s church–private property–instead of at one of the two public schools directly across the street, or one of the many public schools in Chesterfield County. The choice to use a private venue effectively-legally-ensured several things: it made a ban on signs allowable, it made protesting on the grounds a legal offense, it made the pastor feel it was within his right to lead the town hall with a Christian prayer, and it made Amanda Chase feel it was ok to admonish tax paying constituents for their “unruly behavior” in HER town hall.

Further, instead of allowing and encouraging a serious back and forth Q&A, our elected officials forced their constituents to write questions on note cards to be submitted beforehand for their perusal and then didn’t allow the questioner a microphone to talk. Brat, especially, frustrated attendees with a series of non-answers to serious questions, especially questions concerning the recently and narrowly House passed AHCA. He did NOT answer the many clear and succinct questions he was asked about it. Chase’s answer that “church charity will take care of our country’s health care needs” was breathlessly out of touch with the reality of health care complexity and needs in our nation.

The “unruly” behavior that took place happened as a direct result of the strict and demeaning rules placed on the town hall participants. These deliberate decisions on the part of our elected representatives were not meant to encourage free speech. They were meant to squash it into submission.

THESE are the reasons why the town hall was “rowdy,” NOT, as McConnell implies, because we Democrats are defensive, belligerent, and antagonistic by nature. “Liberal” and “left” are not synonymous with ignorance, immorality, or disrespectful any more than “conservative” and “right” are synonymous with racist, narrow-minded, or patriotic.

Much of the country is teeming with anger right now. Town halls across the country look exactly like this one did because of similar free speech constrictions placed on them by our elected officials. Mr. McConnell’s choice of words makes his article—and him—appear uninformed and biased, not what we expect and need from news journalists.

Kate Flinn

Editor’s Note: This post was submitted to the Chesterfield Observer several weeks ago, but was never published. The author has granted permission to re-post her letter on Blue Louisa.