Democracy is messy. Dictators do not have to worry much about the opinions of those they govern; as long as things run smoothly enough, it will discourage open revolt. But elected officials should listen to their constituents – all of them, not just people selected in advance for their civility.
Our longtime congressman, Joe Pitts, understood this. No matter what one thought of Mr. Pitts’ politics, there was no denying that he would listen to his constituents. He regularly held public forums in his district where anybody could show up and ask questions – or berate him for things like his broken promise to limit himself to 10 years in Congress. (He served twice that long.) But Mr. Pitts listened to the people he was elected to represent, and not just the polite ones.
His successor, Lloyd Smucker, is in his first term. Mr. Smucker won’t hold public forums where anybody can show up, saying that doing so gives people a chance to be disruptive. He said in a candidates’ forum held by LNP Media Group on Monday, April 30, that he would “listen to them and to hear from them and to interact with them in every productive way possible,” but he wouldn’t agree to forums where anybody can show up. And he hasn’t held a single one of those forums since taking office.
His opponent in the primary election on Tuesday, May 15, is Chet Beiler. In the same candidates’ forum, Mr. Beiler said Mr. Smucker’s refusal to meet with anyone who wants to show up is one of the main reasons he decided to challenge Mr. Smucker for the Republican nomination, despite the difficulty of ousting an incumbent.
“There is something beautiful about a public town hall where any of your constituents can come in,” Mr. Beiler said. “And so what if they’re in because they feel like they want to disrupt or whatever?”
Mr. Beiler is right. And it was good that he pledged to hold these meetings four times a year if he’s elected.
Anyone who doesn’t want to hear some harsh words from constituents doesn’t belong in politics. There is little difference between these two men when it comes to political positions, but a world of difference in their attitudes towards listening to the public. For this reason alone, Republicans should vote for Mr. Beiler in the primary on Tuesday, May 15.
The preceding editorial is the opinion of The Elizabethtown Advocate. Other opinions on this page are those of individual contributors. The Advocate aims to give its readers a wide variety of opinions.