If Granger is listening, town halls aren’t needed

Congresswoman Kay Granger speaks to the Star-Telegram editorial board Wednesday, July 5, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Congresswoman Kay Granger speaks to the Star-Telegram editorial board Wednesday, July 5, 2017 in Fort Worth, Texas. TNS

It is not difficult to understand why Congresswoman Kay Granger is reluctant to hold town hall meetings in Fort Worth.

“There are so many threats going on,” she told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board earlier this month.

She isn’t exaggerating.

In Virginia last month, several of Granger’s colleagues were brutally attacked by a gunman during a morning baseball practice.

The victims, one of whom is still in the hospital, were all Republicans. The attacker’s motives were nakedly political.

Savage as it was, such violent assaults are thankfully rare.

Most constituents prefer angry words as their weapon of choice. And in this era of rampant partisanship and incivility, they aren’t holding back.

Granger is probably more concerned about verbal assaults than physical ones, and we don’t blame her.

The town hall meeting, once a mainstay of good governance, has become less of a dialogue between a lawmaker and constituents and more of an opportunity for unfettered venting.

The prevalence of cellphone video gives every person a soapbox and the chance to turn their rant at a member of Congress into a social media phenomenon.

We remember well the town hall meetings held after the passage of Obamacare.

Most of them quickly devolved into shouting matches. Little discussion occurred. To say they were counterproductive is an understatement.

Some policymakers continue to brave the waters of incivility. Sen. Ted Cruz, known to love a good verbal sparring match, has been conducting town halls across the state. For that he is to be commended.

Granger’s decision to forgo the public forum doesn’t mean she is failing as a leader. But it is her responsibility to listen to and meet with her constituents.

Granger has been scheduling one-on-one meetings through her office. That’s good, but other avenues should be made available.

A public setting (perhaps a forum at TCU?) that could afford additional security, a Facebook Live event or an online town hall are possibilities.

Indeed, there are lots of opportunities for the congresswoman to effectively engage with the public.

Granger should find more ways to make sure her constituents know she is available and willing to listen.