Necessity is the mother of invention.
As big-government liberals in Congress have begun to cancel or tightly restrict public access to healthcare townhalls, some conservatives have found a new opportunity. And so we have a new GOP tactic: the counter-town hall.
Republican challengers across the country have found a new way of capitalizing on the roiling emotions surrounding congressional health care town hall meetings.
Driven by intense voter interest in the topic, the almost-certain promise of media coverage and the opportunity to upstage incumbent Democrats, GOP candidates in state after state are holding their own health care town halls — and reveling in the subsequent publicity bonanza.
The health care events are proving to be a boon for those seeking to oust incumbents, delivering the most precious of political commodities — voter attention and local press coverage.
Florida Republican Allen West, who is running against Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.), said his Deerfield Beach town hall meeting earlier this month drew several hundred local residents, many of whom stayed long after the 90-minute session ended to chat with him.
Just as important, the event was the subject of extensive media coverage and was streamed live on a local news website.
“We made the 11 o'clock news,” said West.
“I just think that if you’re a smart candidate right now, you should be getting out there and getting in front of the people,” he said. “If you’re not doing that, you’re putting yourself behind the eight ball.”
The challenger town halls serve another important purpose by offering candidates the chance to fill the void left by incumbent Democrats who have opted against holding large-scale, in-person town halls out of fear of raucous crowds or out of a desire to talk to constituents in smaller or more controlled settings.
Adam Kinzinger, a Republican who’s running against freshman Democratic Rep. Deborah Halvorson in Illinois, held five town halls to highlight his criticism of the congresswoman’s avoidance of public health care meetings during the August recess.
True freedom of speech like that enjoyed in the United States is a wonderful thing, and it makes it very difficult to stifle new ideas. Democrats trying to take control of the healthcare debate by cancelling public meetings are trying to stuff the toothpaste back into the tube. That effort will prove messy and futile.