July 11, 2018Simon Institute details recommendations to improve political town hall meetings
by Pete Rosenbery
CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute is making recommendations to improve congressional town hall meetings in Illinois.
The Institute has been working for several months with the Lugar Center in Washington, D.C., on its University Project for Bipartisan Collaboration. The center asked eight universities to develop programs to improve bipartisanship and civil discourse in their respective states.
Town hall meetings becoming more rancorous
What was once an important feature of the nation’s “culture of representative democracy for more than two centuries is now under serious attack,” John T. Shaw, Institute director said. The “intensifying polarization and revolutions in technology and social media have created a vastly different political landscape.”
He added that social media adds fuel to the flames.
“Strongly partisan activist groups have come to regard town hall meetings largely as opportunities to attack lawmakers they oppose and to create embarrassing moments that can be captured on camera and disseminated on social media,” Shaw said.
Illinois’ congressional delegation received recommendations
The Simon Institute drafted a set of 10 recommendations for conducting congressional town hall meetings in Illinois. The report was sent July 4 to each of Illinois’ 18 U.S. representatives and U.S. Senators Richard Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.
The report urges lawmakers to use these ideas when restructuring future town hall meetings with the goal of restoring civility and constructive discussions to these events, Shaw said. Members of the Illinois General Assembly will also receive the report and recommendations.
Civil and constructive discussions are key
“The Simon Institute believes that congressional town hall meetings should be reimagined so they are civil and constructive discussions between lawmakers and the public,” Shaw said. “Respectful discussions cannot be mandated but they can be encouraged and civility should be the coin of …