As we have written before on this page and in this space, town hall sessions held by elected leaders are crucial for the health of democracy.
The subject is relevant because Rep. Greg Walden will swing through Morrow County next week for a town hall session in Heppner.
Walden, who is Oregon’s sole Republican federal lawmaker, will also visit Rufus, Arlington, Burns and Tygh Valley.
The sessions may seem mundane for most but they actually provide one of the best forums for voters to interact with their federal legislators.
Walden said he already has conducted 40 town halls in Oregon during the year and, most likely, he will do even more before the year comes to an end.
Walden, of course, isn’t alone. Lawmakers across the nation hold town hall sessions frequently, and Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley also spend a lot of time on the road. Wyden is especially proficient with holding town hall meetings, often in places — such as Eastern Oregon — where his political views stand in sharp contrast to the prevailing sentiments of the regions voters.
But political dogma isn’t the issue when lawmakers like Walden or Wyden swing into town. At least it shouldn’t be. That’s because at the end of the day, our elected leaders — whether Republican or Democrat — represent us all. Their goal should be — as it clearly is with Wyden and Walden — to listen to everyone about their concerns.
For area residents, the town halls are the perfect environment to interact with the men and women who make legislative decisions in Washington, D.C. Knowing what our elected leaders are doing — and why they are doing it — is a crucial pillar to our democracy.
While there is a lot of discussion and debate about important issues facing our nation, it is often so polarized that understanding any of it can be a challenge.
That’s why town halls are a good thing. At a town hall meeting a voter can stand up and ask a question and receive an answer. Whether they like the answer is beside the point. The point is the people we have elected stand before us and give feedback and updates on what goals they seek to achieve.
Democracy can be a messy business, but it only functions if there is clear communication between the body politic and those chosen to represent it.
Practicing democracy shouldn’t be a hassle but an important element of day-to-day life. That means if you get the chance, you should take the opportunity to attend one.