The demise of the American town hall

Why is Congress so partisan and divisive? Why is American politics so confrontational and contentious? The answer may have something to do with the broken state of the national town hall meeting, a staple of congressman-voter interaction, and of American democracy more generally.

So what happened to the town hall?

Part of the problem is the altered political landscape; it’s not just that talk radio has made screaming popular. Legislators say that voters are now more interested in national issues — on which a single lawmaker has little power to effect change — than in local ones, for which the problem may be easier to resolve. Which means fewer people arrive at meetings with a reason to listen.

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