In Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry, Congressman Fitzpatrick, town halls

This letter-to-the-editor appeared in the Midweek Wire print edition. (No LTEs appear in the online edition.) 

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I have gone to the trouble of keeping a log of town halls in Rep. Fitzpatrick’s district for many months so I can attend a few to talk about my representative’s positions on the healthcare law. The congressman’s staff did not tell me about two that happened in August in Salford Township and Springtown when I asked. I read about them in the newspaper. There have been no real public town halls since then that I am aware of.

After months of keeping a log, I have observed how politics is played in PA-8.

Constituents who want to challenge the congressman on the issues are political liabilities to be avoided especially at public town halls.

I suspect this congressman and many other representatives do not want to be videoed talking to folks at real town halls.  They prefer events that are managed or staged where the dialog can be controlled. This, in turn, controls what the press sees. The press then feeds the congressman’s message to the general public.

At a real town hall, the congressman would be on the hot seat. He would have to answer for his statements on the healthcare law and his votes on the gov’t shut-down, for example.

We see the congressman visiting seniors, and tenderly talking to veterans. But he voted for Paul Ryan’s plan to alter Medicare by turning it into a voucher program that would hurt seniors.

And the veterans? The congressman uses every low-ball, incendiary Republican talking point about the healthcare law without regard to facts. Is he really working for the vets ? One out of every 10 vets will get health insurance because of the healthcare law.

So what is really going on in PA-8?

PA-8 is comprised of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Pleasing them all is difficult.

I believe our congressman’s answer to this political conundrum is image.  Appear to be accessible by making many private appearances where challenges are less likely; avoid being challenged in public on the issues where substantive answers are required; and hope this strategy wins enough moderate voters to win an election.

Unfortunately, it seems that serving as US congressman for PA-8 in the House of Representatives has become one long press junket to keep a congressional seat.

Theresa BrownGold

Art As Social Inquiry

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