You want to take a politician and strip them of all their power, turn them weak, and powerless. Then, you put them in the middle of a town hall meeting with their constituents. We saw a heavy dose of this during the summer break. That was preceded by the media making allusions that politicians would get an earful when they got back home. So, citizens, almost on cue, took that to heart.
it appears clear that what we saw over the summer was not some anomaly. In fact, town halls may no longer be simply for the true political junkie. It may now be a standard for the average citizen to confront their representative and turn the tables on them. Many citizens often feel powerless over their politician. Yes, of course, it is we the people that elect our representative. We each only have one vote and we often feel they represent interests closer to D.C. than to our own homes.
Yet, when a politician schedules a town hall, they have nowhere to hide. It's them on their own feeling the fury of hundreds if not thousands. The images, sights, and sounds from the town halls over the summer are seared in our minds. Angry voters screaming at their representatives while the politicians stand (or sit) helplessly. Most of the time, even when they try and speak, they're immediately cut off by the screams and excitement.
There's a sort of poetic justice to the town hall format. These politicians hold the fate of millions in their hands and they arrogantly proclaim to speak for the people. At a town hall, there's nowhere to hide. They're entirely powerless. All the misdeeds that each commits for months and years in D.C. are then on display and the politician has nowhere to hide. For political drama, there's little that's more dramatic.
The latest reincarnation of this was a town hall that Russ Feingold held. Feingold, to his credit, not only went to an area of Wisconsin that is heavily Republican but remained cool and professional throughout each encounter. Even so, the drama was at a maximum.
At the beginning of the movie Wall Street, then struggling Bud Fox, after being stiffed on a trade, says "my dream is to be on the other end of that call".
In this world, power is centered in the few. The rest dream of just one chance to reverse that and have the power in their hands. Town halls are exactly that opportunity. That's what makes them a phenomenon. It is the people's chance to take the power away from the politicians and for once leave the politician vulnerable and exposed.
Please check out my new books, "Prosecutors Gone Wild: The Inside Story of the Trial of Chuck Panici, John Gliottoni, and Louise Marshall" and also, "The Definitive Dossier of PTSD in Whistleblowers"