U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-The White House, will not do any town hall meetings, though this is an election year and she surely could pack a high school gym with interested voters. She told Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, that the people pressuring her to hold a public meeting are “out of state people....” Goodness, she thinks New Hampshire voters are dumb.
New Hampshire’s other U.S. senator holds town hall meetings all the time. By each office’s own count, Sen. Kelly Ayotte has held three times as many town hall meetings as Jeanne Shaheen — and Ayotte has been in office half as long as Shaheen has.
Ayotte held a town hall meeting immediately after she voted against the Senate gun-control bill, rushed through after the Newtown shootings.
She knew the meeting would be packed with anti-gun activists, but she held it anyway. Sure enough, an out-of-state-financed group, Granite State Progress, brought in out-of-state activists to heckle Ayotte.
It is not that New Hampshire has this grand tradition of U.S. senators holding lots of town hall meetings. Rather, voters now seem to expect that most elected officials (save, possibly, the governor) will present themselves before the voters to answer questions and be held accountable. Ayotte has embraced this. Shaheen cowers from it.
The real reason Shaheen does not want to put herself directly before the people should be perfectly obvious.
Politically, Shaheen is a throwback to the old-fashioned, party-run politician. She expresses no thoughts of her own, only party-approved talking points. She agrees with President Obama more than he does. Put a talking-point robot in front of a roomful of constituents who want answers and leadership, and it will be a YouTube bonanza.
So she avoids it and blames the same sort of out-of-state groups that Kelly Ayotte had the courage to face. What courage.