Get Involved: Attend a Political Town Hall

Reed Cleland, Class of 2022

The arrival of October indicates that we are one month closer to Election Day. It also means an explosion of town hall events around the country. These are opportunities for the American body politic to interact with politicians in intimate settings. Town halls are fantastic opportunities for candidates to acquaint themselves with enthusiasts, potential supporters and opponents.

The Colgate College Democrats are hosting Democratic candidate Anthony Brindisi in a town hall event to provide Colgate students and faculty with a chance for civil political discourse. Assemblyman Brindisi will be on the ballot to represent New York’s 22nd Congressional District in the House of Representatives. He is challenging incumbent Representative Claudia Tenney ’83. NBC described the race as a “dead heat,” with Mr. Brindisi holding a razor thin lead in recent polls.

The Brindisi event, which will be at 4:30 p.m. on October 10 in Lawrence 105 (Ho Lecture Room), will be in a question-and-answer style format. Faculty and students will have the opportunity to inquire of Assemblyman Brindisi’s stances on critical policy issues.

Town halls are ways that we can measure the health of American democracy. The concept of an intimate political gathering can be traced to seventeenth and eighteenth-century New England. Enfranchised citizens (white male landowners) would gather together in a local church or community to discuss an immediate policy issue. These meetings have lasted through the centuries and evolved into the town halls of contemporary politics.

During presidential campaigns, town halls are often broadcast on national television by major networks, such as CNN or FOX News. This enables voters to hold their candidates and elected representatives accountable.

Normally, town halls are not nearly as emotional, but they can become heated. In 2017, town halls allowed voters to voice their opinions about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as well as the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Opponents of President Trump’s agenda were allowed a forum to give their Republican politicians an earful. Town halls allow for debate and exchange of ideas about pending national legislation. Voters and activists even have the potential to change the minds of others who may be listening.

For those who may have tuned out politics or feel left behind in political discussions, I believe town halls are a great way to learn. They are some of the best classrooms that America has to offer. Colgate students and faculty have the chance to partake in a civics lesson unique to American democracy, and the Colgate College Democrats should be commended for enriching the university’s educational experience.

Contact Reed Cleland at [email protected].