No one can deny that the political climate in our country today is pretty divisive. Protests and outbursts are becoming more and more common. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise when you consider that a certain group now considers themselves “the resistance.”
Given the volatile condition of our politics today, many Members of Congress are no longer hosting town hall-style meetings to meet with their constituents. These events have become too risky as they provide an avenue for “the resistance” to cause problems and create negative attention.
Despite the national trend away from town hall meetings, I continue to believe town halls are one of the best ways to stay in touch with the people we represent. My town hall meetings are always open to anyone and provide for an hour of open dialogue between residents and the person elected to be their voice in Congress.
While I know some town halls around the country have turned confrontational, I believe that the people of Alabama have enough decency to be able to openly debate and discuss political issues without becoming nasty. I’ve held over 115 in-person town hall meetings since being elected to Congress, and I can count on one hand the number of times someone has been intentionally disruptive or hateful.
Last year, a national news crew from CBS came down to Alabama to cover a day of my town hall meetings. I think they were expecting some hostile moments. At the end of the day, they commented about how nice, friendly, and hospitable the people were. I told them that was just how we operate in Alabama.
See, I think being able to debate – and even disagree – about important issues is fundamental to our country. If you look at places like Russia, North Korea, and Iran, they don’t allow for open debate and dialogue about issues. It is this type of conversation and the freedom to disagree that makes our country great.
So, over the past month, I hit the road to visit communities across Southwest Alabama to hold town hall meetings. Known as the “Better Off Now” Town Hall Tour, I held open meetings in Salipta, Atmore, Brewton, Dauphin Island, Millry, Citronelle, Mobile, Grand Bay, Monroeville, Seminole, Loxley, and Spanish Fort.
For me, it is very important to spread out where I hold town hall meetings. Instead of just staying in larger cities, I have made a commitment to visiting communities of all sizes and in each of the six counties that make up the First Congressional District. The voice of the people in the Salipta community of Clarke County matters just as much as the voice of those in Mobile.
During my recent town hall meetings, hot topics were problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, concerns about illegal immigration, issues with the “Deep State” and government bureaucracy, and the need for improvement to local roads and infrastructure. Each town hall meeting was different, but these were some of the overarching themes.
At the end of the day, I refuse to give in to the narrative that we can no longer openly discuss political issues in our country. We need to embrace the diversity of opinions and views, and town hall meetings are a great way to do that.
So, I promise that as long as I am your Congressman, I will continue to hold public, in-person town hall meetings throughout our area to hear directly from the people I represent. Through these meetings, I become a better Congressman, and I think our society becomes a little stronger.
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Bradley Byrne is a member of U.S. Congress representing Alabama’s 1st Congressional District.