search
Sections List
American Journal News

Dear Congress: Don't cancel town halls

On a Saturday morning in early January 2011, Rep. Gabby Giffords was meeting with constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson, Arizona. The event was brutally interrupted as gunshots rang out, killing six people and sending Giffords to the hospital with a bullet wound to the head. Six and a half years later, a group […]

By Dan Desai Martin - June 18, 2017
Share
Gabby Giffords

The event was brutally interrupted as gunshots rang out, killing six people and sending Giffords to the hospital with a bullet wound to the head.

Six and a half years later, a group of Republican representatives were enjoying a sunny morning on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia. As they were practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, shots rang out and shattered the idyllic scene. Five people were shot, including one member of Congress, Rep. Steve Scalise, and two Capitol police officers.

In both cases, the country and the government came together. Only two days after Giffords was shot in the head by a madman, her staff opened their offices on Monday morning, welcoming constituents and serving the people.

And in the immediate aftermath of the Alexandria shooting, Speaker Paul Ryan gathered the members of the House to declare, “We are united. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” After a standing ovation, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rose to echo the same sentiment of unity and solidarity.

America is not new to tragedy.  The Greatest Generation can remember where they were when they heard that President John F. Kennedy was shot. Civil rights activists and many others remember the day when shots rang out in Memphis and took the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And everyone who was alive and old enough to understand on September 11, 2001, remembers the feelings of horror as they watched the twin towers fall and saw the Pentagon ablaze.

In these terrible moments, we also saw what makes America the country it is today. Though Kennedy died, Americans still reached the moon by the end of the decade, fulfilling his promise. Lyndon Johnson, because of the work by civil rights leaders like King, signed the Civil Rights Act, a commitment from Kennedy.

After King was assassinated, the civil rights movement continued to fight racism and bigotry. Rep. John Lewis, who marched with King and was assaulted at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, also attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Three days after terrorists struck a blow to New York City on that September morning, President George W. Bush stood on the rubble with a bullhorn, thanking first responders for running into danger.

That’s who we are as Americans. We don’t let terrorists and madmen dictate who we are and how we act. Yes, we are scared sometimes. But we push forward, united, because we are stronger than the worst anyone can throw at us.

The shooting in Alexandria is the latest in a string of tragedies that America is going through together. This is not the time to shrink back into our corners.

Some members of Congress are calling for even fewer town halls in light of the shooting. To be sure, no one should host an event if there are credible threats of violence.

But in light of tragedy, we need to talk to and listen to one another more, not less.

Prior to the events in Alexandria, many Republicans were already refusing to hold meetings with constituents. During a congressional recess in February, more than four times as many Democrats held town halls as Republicans.

A terrorist in Alexandria doesn’t stop the workings of our government. The Senate recently passed sanctions against Russia. The appropriations process will still move forward. And a mysterious health care bill is reportedly working its way through the Senate.

Just as members of Congress and their staff continue to work, we, the people, want to continue to do our work as citizens and constituents.

We want to express our views on issues large and small. We want to applaud members who agree with us, and try to persuade those who don’t through conversation and interaction.

Town halls are a hallmark of American democracy. No member has called for canceling fundraisers, so we know that Wall Street will still get to have its say. Allowing a terrorist gunman to rob members of Congress of the opportunity to hear from Main Street would be a sad statement.

Giffords’ aide, Ron Barber, was shot multiple times that January day in 2011. He later was elected to Giffords’s seat, a member of Congress in his own right. And when it came time to campaign and talk to constituents in Tucson, Barber held town halls there. As Giffords said, “It’s what the people deserve in a representative.”

On the day of the Alexandria shooting, the progressive Indivisible group in Scalise’s district sent out a message to all their members: Instead of calling his office about health care, please call and express your concern and support.

Coming together in the face of tragedy is what we do in America. As scary as the shooting in Alexandria was, we need to stay strong as a country. And part of that strength is through constituents being able to meet with, and talk to, and even disagree with our elected officials.

As Giffords said when some members were avoiding town halls in February, “Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls.”

Let’s hope that members of Congress follow in the tradition of John Lewis, George W. Bush, Gabby Giffords, and Ron Barber. It’s what we, the people, deserve.


Read More
AJ News
Latest
Trump, MAGA campaign against Harris already laced with misogyny, racism

Trump, MAGA campaign against Harris already laced with misogyny, racism

By Dana Gentry, Nevada Current - July 24, 2024
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz doesn’t want to talk about Texas’ restrictive abortion ban

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz doesn’t want to talk about Texas’ restrictive abortion ban

By Jesse Valentine - July 23, 2024
Republican Tim Sheehy often brags about his business record. His company is in the red.

Republican Tim Sheehy often brags about his business record. His company is in the red.

By Jesse Valentine - July 22, 2024
Big investors are buying up single-family homes. Sen. Sherrod Brown has a plan to stop them.

Big investors are buying up single-family homes. Sen. Sherrod Brown has a plan to stop them.

By Jesse Valentine - July 09, 2024
New Mexico Senate nom Nella Domenici earned up to $1 million renting out Connecticut home

New Mexico Senate nom Nella Domenici earned up to $1 million renting out Connecticut home

By Jesse Valentine - July 08, 2024
GOP’s Mark Robinson blames bad fathers for social ills despite own son’s criminal record

GOP’s Mark Robinson blames bad fathers for social ills despite own son’s criminal record

By Jesse Valentine - July 03, 2024
Kelly Ayotte’s history of backing Medicare cuts could be hurdle in governor’s race

Kelly Ayotte’s history of backing Medicare cuts could be hurdle in governor’s race

By Jesse Valentine - July 02, 2024
Texas Republican Ken Paxton enlisted outside group to gut rights for pregnant workers

Texas Republican Ken Paxton enlisted outside group to gut rights for pregnant workers

By Jesse Valentine - June 24, 2024
Ted Cruz leverages Trump conviction on podcast for own personal gain

Ted Cruz leverages Trump conviction on podcast for own personal gain

By Jesse Valentine - June 11, 2024
Arizona Republican Kari Lake proposes massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare

Arizona Republican Kari Lake proposes massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare

By Jesse Valentine - June 10, 2024
Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Hung Cao says workplace diversity is ‘Marxism’

Virginia U.S. Senate candidate Hung Cao says workplace diversity is ‘Marxism’

By Jesse Valentine - June 06, 2024
Republican Bernie Moreno’s rags-to-riches story exposed as a lie

Republican Bernie Moreno’s rags-to-riches story exposed as a lie

By Jesse Valentine - May 24, 2024
What happens to clinics after a state bans abortion? They fight to survive.

What happens to clinics after a state bans abortion? They fight to survive.

By Chabeli Carrazana and Shefali Luthra - May 22, 2024
Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte took job at Caterpillar after tax fraud probe

Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte took job at Caterpillar after tax fraud probe

By Jesse Valentine - May 21, 2024
Alabama OB-GYN residencies dropped over 20% after Dobbs, state abortion ban, says analysis

Alabama OB-GYN residencies dropped over 20% after Dobbs, state abortion ban, says analysis

By Alander Rocha, Alabama Reflector - May 21, 2024
House GOP celebrates National Police Week while pushing to defund local law enforcement

House GOP celebrates National Police Week while pushing to defund local law enforcement

By Jesse Valentine - May 16, 2024
Evolution denier Mark Robinson could reshape North Carolina’s education system

Evolution denier Mark Robinson could reshape North Carolina’s education system

By Jesse Valentine - May 16, 2024
Republican Jay Ashcroft backs anti-abortion clinics that push lies and disinformation

Republican Jay Ashcroft backs anti-abortion clinics that push lies and disinformation

By Jesse Valentine - May 14, 2024
Republican Sam Brown’s assault on teacher unions could backfire

Republican Sam Brown’s assault on teacher unions could backfire

By Jesse Valentine - May 09, 2024
Florida abortion ban puts GOP Rep. Anna Paulina Luna’s anti-choice views in spotlight

Florida abortion ban puts GOP Rep. Anna Paulina Luna’s anti-choice views in spotlight

By Jesse Valentine - May 07, 2024
Trump leaves door open to banning medication abortion nationwide

Trump leaves door open to banning medication abortion nationwide

By Jennifer Shutt, States Newsroom - April 30, 2024
Republican Caroleene Dobson wants Alabama abortion ban to go nationwide

Republican Caroleene Dobson wants Alabama abortion ban to go nationwide

By Jesse Valentine - April 30, 2024
Ohio Gov. DeWine said he didn’t know of millions in FirstEnergy support. Is it plausible?

Ohio Gov. DeWine said he didn’t know of millions in FirstEnergy support. Is it plausible?

By Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal - April 29, 2024
GOP Rep. Zach Nunn suggests laws against hate crime aren’t needed

GOP Rep. Zach Nunn suggests laws against hate crime aren’t needed

By Jesse Valentine - April 15, 2024
GOP Senate candidate Hung Cao blames racial equity for Baltimore bridge tragedy

GOP Senate candidate Hung Cao blames racial equity for Baltimore bridge tragedy

By Jesse Valentine - March 29, 2024
GOP Rep. Jennifer Kiggans donates thousands to far-right extremists

GOP Rep. Jennifer Kiggans donates thousands to far-right extremists

By Jesse Valentine - March 08, 2024
Ohio senate candidate Bernie Moreno: “Absolute pro-life no exceptions.”

Ohio senate candidate Bernie Moreno: “Absolute pro-life no exceptions.”

By Jesse Valentine - March 07, 2024
Anti-China Republicans pocket thousands from Chinese owned conglomerate

Anti-China Republicans pocket thousands from Chinese owned conglomerate

By Jesse Valentine - March 04, 2024
Republican Eric Hovde makes inconsistent statements about family history

Republican Eric Hovde makes inconsistent statements about family history

By Jesse Valentine - February 26, 2024
Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

Republican David McCormick invests millions in website that platforms Holocaust denial

By Jesse Valentine - February 09, 2024
Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

Lawmakers will again take up bills expanding, tightening gun laws

By Annmarie Timmins, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 31, 2024
UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

UAW delivers rousing presidential endorsement for Biden over ‘scab’ Trump

By Ashley Murray, States Newsroom - January 24, 2024
Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

Republicans Sam Brown and Jeff Gunter sling mud in Nevada senate primary

By Jesse Valentine - January 17, 2024
A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

A Young Texas Woman Almost Died Due To The Texas Abortion Bans – Now She’s Battling To Save Other Women

By Bonnie Fuller - January 10, 2024
Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

Health care legislation preview: Maryland advocates want to focus on access, patients in 2024 session

By Danielle J. Brown, Maryland Matters - January 08, 2024
How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

How GOP senate hopefuls try to excuse the  January 6 insurrection

By Jesse Valentine - January 05, 2024
NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

NH lawmakers will be taking up major voting bills this year. Here are some to watch for.

By Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin - January 04, 2024
Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

Republican US Senate candidates want to make Trump’s tax cuts permanent 

By Jesse Valentine - December 22, 2023
Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

Rand Paul went all in on the Kentucky governor’s race. It didn’t work.

By - December 15, 2023
Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

Texas governor and attorney general do little to curb state’s chemical plant crisis

By Jesse Valentine - December 08, 2023
Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

Likely GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde proposed tax hike for poorer workers and retirees

By Jesse Valentine - December 07, 2023
Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

Whitmer signs specific criminal penalties for assaulting health care workers into law

By Anna Liz Nichols, Michigan Advance - December 06, 2023
105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

105 Republicans voted to expel Santos for things Trump has also done

By Jesse Valentine - December 05, 2023
For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

For Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Trump term is another chance to kill Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - December 04, 2023
Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

Florida Sen. Rick Scott backs Donald Trump in revived push to repeal Obamacare

By Jesse Valentine - November 30, 2023
Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

Tate Reeves took donations from power company that hiked customer rates

By Jesse Valentine - November 06, 2023
Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

Daniel Cameron ran on depoliticizing the Kentucky AG’s office. He made it more political.

By Jesse Valentine - November 03, 2023
Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

Republican operatives sound every alarm on current trajectory of 2023 governor’s race

By Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today - October 24, 2023
Doctors at Ossoff Decatur hearing say Georgia’s six-week abortion ban endangers patients

Doctors at Ossoff Decatur hearing say Georgia’s six-week abortion ban endangers patients

By Jill Nolin, Georgia Recorder - July 24, 2024
NC Attorney General candidate Dan Bishop fought to allow discrimination and ban abortion

NC Attorney General candidate Dan Bishop fought to allow discrimination and ban abortion

By Jesse Valentine - July 24, 2024
Horsford credits Biden for $800 million to help tribal communities in NV deal with climate impacts

Horsford credits Biden for $800 million to help tribal communities in NV deal with climate impacts

By Michael Lyle, Nevada Current - July 23, 2024
Education budget makes strides on Whitmer’s free pre-K and community college plans

Education budget makes strides on Whitmer’s free pre-K and community college plans

By Lucy Valeski, Michigan Advance - July 23, 2024