Senator Bernie Sanders, speaking to CNN yesterday: “If you don’t have the guts to face your constituents, then you shouldn’t be in the United States Congress.”
Our representative in Congress, John Shimkus (R, Illinois-15), doesn’t believe in facing his constituents in town-hall meetings:
Rep. John Shimkus told fellow lawmakers he‘d never held a town-hall meeting during his two decades in Congress, and offered advice on how to handle constituent relations, according to two sources in the room. A Shimkus spokesperson wouldn’t comment on the private conference, but did confirm that Shimkus has never held an in-person town hall, saying he prefers telephone town halls and one-on-one constituent meetings.The spokesperson added that Trump won the Illinois district with 70 percent of the vote, and his constituents were “pleased the president is delivering on his promises.”Well, not every constituent. Eight of us went to one of Rep. Shimkus’s local offices today. All efforts to arrange a meeting with him had failed, so we just showed up. (It’s a forty-five-minute drive.) For a little more than an hour, we spoke to a district aide, who took notes and promised to pass on our concerns, which included “alternative facts,” Cabinet appointees, climate change, the executive order on travel, funding for the arts and PBS, health care, LGBTQ rights, mass deportations, Planned Parenthood, our president’s lack of plain decency, a promised wall, Russian influence in the 2016 election, and, above all, fear about the future of our democracy. It was a respectful meeting, with an aide who was admittedly out of his wheelhouse. That wheelhouse would be what’s usually called “constituent services” — helping people with IRS and Social Security problems and such.
We eight constituents thought our time was well spent. I don’t know if we’ll we ever get to meet with Rep. Shimkus. But as someone once said, “If you don’t have the guts to face your constituents, then you shouldn’t be in the United States Congress.”
[The Fifteenth District has a population of 710,000. As a member of our group pointed out, one-on-one meetings leave an overwhelming majority of voters without access to their representative. In 2016 Shimkus ran unopposed; he won reëlection with all of the vote.]