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EDITORIAL: Hold the town hall

Congresswoman Barbara Comstock has one of the most perceptive and politically astute minds in the Washington region, winning five contests in seven years in fairly balanced districts – three in the purple 34th House District of the General Assembly and two in the Republican-leaning 10th Congressional District of Virginia. Last November, Comstock won her race by six percentage points in a contest pundits were tagging a toss-up. (Those poor, poor pundits of 2016.)

Politics aside, the congresswoman has also earned a mostly sterling reputation for her constituent services. In her own words, she is “ever present in the 10th,” appearing at parades, chambers of commerce events, religious shows of unity and community meetings. In this light, the congresswoman has mirrored her predecessor, 34-year Rep. Frank Wolf, a man she once worked for. Like Wolf, Comstock is known to fight for her district and the thousands of federal workers residing within it.

We note these qualities because they add to our bemusement on this persisting question of town halls.

Congresswoman, it's past time. Hold a town hall, and hold the town hall soon. Hold a town hall because, first and foremost, constituents must feel like their elected officials hear them and grasp their fears and concerns. Right now, in our district, there are those who don't believe their voice is heard.

Far secondary to that point, holding a town hall is the smart thing to do politically.

“It's part of the job, and you've got to earn the respect of your constituents. We teach this in campaign schools. It's more important that the voters believe you're listening to them than it is for them to actually agree with your positions. They'll say things like, 'I don't agree with what he says, but you know what he understands' … It's that relationship.”

These aren't the words of a liberal activist or Comstock foe. They're the remarks of Republican Rick Tyler, a former spokesman and consultant for Sen. Ted Cruz, addressing the town hall question.

“If you're a member of Congress and you've got hostile crowds, what you do is you hold a town hall meeting every day you can hold a town hall meeting. You open up the doors, and you answer questions and then you answer one-on-one, and if you have to stay there five hours a day, I promise every one of these members of Congress, by the end of five days, people will respect you for listening to them.”

This, again, is not from a member of the local Indivisible group or MoveOn.org. This was former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough speaking with Tyler on his morning show.

“You go to the high school, you open the doors, you say, 'Hey we're here, and I'm going to be here as long as you guys want to be here, and if you guys don't get all of your questions answered tonight, I'm going to cancel events … as long as you guys want to talk to me, I'm here to talk to you,'” Scarborough continued.

We don't only find it off-putting that Rep. Comstock hasn't held a town hall with constituents since the election of President Donald Trump – though the election has no doubt exacerbated the issue. We're more disheartened that the congresswoman hasn't held a traditional, in-person town hall in her more than 27 months in Congress.

Our congresswoman would do well to follow the lead of fellow Republicans lawmakers Joni Ernst, Jeff Flake, Mike Coffman, Mark Sanford and others, all of whom have recently held traditional town halls.

Comstock, the only Northern Virginia representative of the same political stripe as the president, said she's decided tele-town halls and small constituent meetings at her office are the best approach. They are what works best for her, she says.

An obvious question: How could she possibly know? She's never experienced the alternative.

Comstock's failure to directly face her constituents, including those who disagree with her, is the wrong approach in our increasingly moderate district. It's the wrong approach both politically and in the spirit of service.

Comments


Robert Smith, I have never said that no legitimate progressive ideology existed.  I had a progressive colleague who was very informed on the issues and policies.  He was honest about stating that he doesn’t believe folks can take care of themselves and that often the gov’t must do it for them.  He even believed healthcare should be administered by the gov’t since individuals weren’t capable or really sorting through insurance options (even the rich and informed).  He acknowledged there were moral hazards in giving so many handouts but simply felt there was more upside than downside to a democratic socialist philosophy.

I do not support removing all social safety nets.  But go watch Cinderella Man again.  The protagonist was so dismayed at having to accept handouts during the Great Depression that he repaid it as soon as he could.  Today, folks literally receive a net check from the federal gov’t when they file taxes (refund is greater than any taxes paid in) and yet they think they are “paying their fair share”.  They don’t even realize other citizens’ property is being confiscated and given to them.  Many simply want unlimited handouts.  Not only are capitalist incentives helpful for productivity but many of us believe such markets (where individuals choose how to spend their money rather than the gov’t - see education grants resulting in way more college spending than is needed) are irreplaceable.

I think you have to admit that many of the Democratic rabblerousers on here not only don’t understand the policies they support but simply aim to grandstand (e.g. protest outside Comstock’s office) to get political points.  They have no legitimate point.  And many (such as AndrewHoya on here) can’t explain the rationale for their views so they start name calling.  For the record, I have called folks out for such actions (when they criticized the appearance of some of our officials) and do not name call myself.  That would undermine my case.

When progressives don’t present a rational argument, they should prepare to be mocked.  Either call them out yourself or disassociate from them.  But don’t tell others we can’t criticize them for being hypocritical or grandstanding.


Robert_Q_Smith, in my fairly limited experience in these comment sections, I can say I’ve had exactly the same experience with SGP. It’s unfortunate. We’re all part of the same community.


Drawn in again…..silly me…....More “they” and “your side”. You don’t know a darn thing about me, and I am not now nor ever defending any political party. I do care about the under-served, the vulnerable, and most importantly, those who have little to lose, for it is those people who scare the [email protected] out of me most. When you have little or nothing to lose, you leave the reservation. And I very much desire ours to be an even-keel society, because that is the best way to keep my friends and family safe. Rogues are those who go to schools to shoot their wives, or fly planes into IRS offices. I’d rather help those people before they break, and that takes $ and effort from the group. Your view on that whole concept is that your money is taken for something that doesn’t benefit you, and you are against that.

Hence, we’ll never be on the same page, and I need to block you out of MY life, because you are negative.

I hope you make a positive difference in peoples lives with all the energy you are expending on your efforts. I just don’t see the bigger picture of it. All I do see is, at the end of the day, you being able to gloat “I was right”. I.

btw - it was your friend David Dickinson who was name-calling. You align with these folks, it rubs off on you.


Robert Smith, first you will note that I have never objected to folks posting their views or comments.  Many on here, including those who cannot substantiate their arguments, often call for those with whom they disagree to be shut down or ignored.  That is basically what you are suggesting. (“I need to block you”)  What you have never done is state why the Democratic positions (of confiscating property from some to give to others because they want it) are sound or justified.

Name-calling is the use of insulting terms not based on facts.  For example, I called Wayde Byard of LCPS a perjurer because he perjured himself in court (the Virginia State Police said the complaint was “legitimate”).  That is not name-calling but simply describing who somebody is.  Stating what “liberals” or “progressives” believe is not name-calling either.  That is a political ideology characterized by certain beliefs and representative of the Democrat party.  I have never called anyone “babies” as that certainly would be name-calling.  Saying that folks “whine” when they “lose” an election is not name-calling if they continue to whine about the elected official.  Or when activists can’t force a politician to engage them in person so they can cause a scene, continuing to moan in public is the definition of whining.

I have many disagreements with local politicians (Plowman, LCSB, Randall, etc.).  I have never whined that they won’t hold a meeting and answer my direct critical questions of them.  Instead, I use the communication channels I have available to criticize their positions.  When they close off gov’t controlled channels (such as attempting to block me from meetings or preventing me from commenting on their social media pages that are open to everyone else), I exercise my constitutional rights.  The critics of Comstock have done the same by getting articles published, renting billboards, writing letters to the editor, organizing, holding meetings, etc.  Bravo.  Continue to do all those things but when you are criticized for your political positions (wanting to give free college even to those who it will not help and increasing our debt), don’t get upset at folks who point out why your positions are unsound, justify them.

You don’t have objections to many who do post name-calling comments on here because they are not taken seriously.  The politicians and many liberal activists object to my comments because I often crucify your arguments in such a way that you cannot recover.  I point out the sheer hypocrisy and irrationality.  By calling me “angry” or saying I “yell”, you are attempting to denigrate me.  I don’t recall ever seeing you posting your views and supporting them with evidence.  You don’t seem to hold the activists on here who try to use this paper for propaganda (the Comstock protests are certainly propaganda) to the same standard even though they are clearly “yelling” because they were unable to prevail in an election in which there was no doubt where the candidates stood.

Lastly, I have not adopted children.  I merely referred to 2 Au Pairs we hosted who eventually became residents and another family member.  I certainly am not seeking credit but when called a “racist” and “xenophobe” by heads of county organizations, I certainly can’t count on you to defend me.  The use of such loaded words against me, especially when they are clearly not based on fact, IS name-calling but you don’t seem to have a problem when your side is dishing it out.  Unlike you, I don’t take my ball and run home though.

The court cases will continue because obviously nobody else is willing to fight the battles (certainly not the ACLU of Virginia who won’t even talk to me because apparently they disagree with my politics, thus they can’t be bothered to actually support my civil liberties).  Yesterday, we appealed the court’s decision in the Plowman case after I found (what I believe) is controlling SCOTUS precedent that Plowman was liable in his personal capacity. (immunity doesn’t apply)  As “Liberals”, I find it ironic that none of you will lift a finger to protect the rights of all in voicing our political beliefs.  But hey, the term “Liberal” certainly has little resemblance to being “liberal” nowadays.  But I’m a big boy and I am willing to put in the work, even if it’s a much harder lift as a pro se.  Just today, the attorneys for the Loudoun BOS argued that I shouldn’t be able to elicit testimony from the Loudoun Supervisors regarding their policy for Facebook pages but should just accept whatever their lawyers say and not be allowed to submit evidence on what the Supervisors actually do on Facebook.  This is the kind of nonsense our politicians are saying in court.  Luckily there are transcripts and I have funds set aside to run Facebook ads from this summer till the election on just how hypocritical and unethical this BOS has been in court.  Instead of telling the truth, they are simply digging a deeper hole.  But then again, they have aligned themselves with LCSB’s Hornberger and Rose so what do you expect.


“liberal babies”. “Dems”. These are name-calling. You don’t respect people who have different opinions, but you go on, and on, and on, on every article possible, blaring your positions, and denigrating those with opposing thoughts. Kudos for your foreign adoptions. However, you hang it out there as a badge of honor, demanding respect for it, self-avowing yourself an expert on the topic, while making massive suppositions about the intents, motivations, feelings, morals, and social conscience of millions of people (all those who even slightly trend toward the “Democrat” moniker).

It is the “they” mentality, that’s what it is. “I must have an enemy, and it is ‘they’”.

You are angry Brian. Go enjoy your family. Keep up your real challenges with those court cases, I respect the fact that you are using the legal means available to press your beliefs. But I don’t understand why you spend so much time, energy, conviction yelling with your fingers at whoever wanders by and reads your/these posts. It’s contradicting. And I must say, I fall for it obviously, feeding your need for attention. I need to block this website so that I can block you from my field of view. I doubt I’m alone.


Received this letter March 24, 2014, before the rigged “Firehouse Primary”

Dear Fellow Conservative,
We are writing you today to ask you to join us in supporting Barbara Comstock’s bid for the 10th Congressional District of Virginia. We all have known and worked with Barbara for over a dozen years - some much longer - and she is hands down the most qualified, energetic, principled conservative running in the 10th District and she has our enthusiastic support.

While seeking common ground for the common good, Barbara has remained deeply committed to her strong values. She has a conservative record and has kept her promises of standing up for the unborn, fighting for family tax relief and protecting hardworking taxpayers, stopping taxpayer funding of abortions, defending the Second Amendment, writing and passing some of the strongest right to work legislation in the country, and led the fight on behalf of victims of human trafficking.

That’s why the leftwing establishment in Washington, DC has spent millions of dollars trying to defeat her in previous elections and why they are spreading misinformation about her today.

Just last year, left-wing groups NARAL and Emily’s List, major unions inside and outside Virginia and anti-gun millionaire Michael Bloomberg (and more!) bombarded her district with attack ads. But, Barbara refused to back down and won one of the most hard fought campaigns ever to be waged in Virginia. She had to run 9 pts ahead of the statewide ticket to secure her seat and prevail.

We are proud to stand with Barbara Comstock in her campaign for Congress.
She has an impeccable record of standing of up for our principles as a key member
of Congressman Frank Wolf’s staff, the Chief Counsel of the largest House committee overseeing investigations;, a senior Justice Department official, a small businesswoman, and a Conservative Member of the House of Delegates. We know no one will work harder to secure this victory in the 10th District and to fight for us in Congress.

Please join the campaign today and sign your “Pledge to Vote for Barbara” today!

Thank you for your support. May God Bless you and your family.
Sincerely,

Governor George Allen Morton Blackwell Kate O’Beirne
Speaker Newt Gingrich Dave Bossie Kate Obenshain
Senator Rick Santorum Kay James Tim Phillips
Senator Fred Thompson Leonard Leo Pete Snyder
Jane Abraham Jim Nicholson


Wrong again. I’m upset and I’m not a Democrat.

And yet another swing and a miss in regards to her Facebook page. She never addresses much of anything that is posted there by her constituents.  One of my concerns (as well as many, many others’ concerns on her Facebook page) is that she won’t hold a town hall. I don’t share your affinity for lawsuits. I just want my elected representative to represent.  The purpose of a town hall is to create a dialogue, which is quite different than trusting you that she has seen my comment on social media even though she never responds. She shouldn’t be afforded the luxury of only communicating what, when and how she deems a person or topic worthy of her stepping out from behind the curtain. That’s not how the job works. We’re seeing a complete lack of caring, understanding, and leadership from Mrs. Comstock. Leaders don’t decide to hide from their constituents because it might be too hard. Or they might be angry. She’s elected to represent the angry people too.


The only people upset that Comstock doesn’t hold an in-person town hall are democrats.

How about this. Post your concerns on her Facebook page. I know she reads that. If she censors you, I will help you take her to court. Deal? Or is this really about politics spectacles?


Incorrect. You are very consumed by this focus on Democrats. What you feel the “Democrats” want is one thing. What I’d like her to hear is what her constituents want, be they Democrats, Republicans, or independents.


Well, at least we know that AndrewHoya has been installed as the arbiter of all things that are “on topic”.

Let’s recap.  Democrats are upset that they are not being “heard”.  Yet they get articles in the paper on their wants, they put up billboards, write letters to the editor, hold signs outside Comstock’s office, and some even meet individually with her.  Does that sound like a group that is not being “heard”?

Obviously, they want to make a political scene.  They have the right to attempt that.  But nobody in their right mind believes they are not being heard.  And AndrewHoya objects to me listing the ideas that the Democrats want Comstock to “hear”.  And refuses to refute any of them.

Andrew, you should have thanked me.  I just provided all the Dems’ positions to Comstock in this chat forum.  I’m sure she will read it so you no longer have a need to have a town hall.  You are most welcome.


SGP, it’s irrelevant if anything you are saying is accurate, it doesn’t belong here. You are off topic. None of this has anything to do with Comstock’s lack of accountability and communication. Save your rants for an appropriate time and place.


cook pol. report rates 10th tossup - wonder why?


such an obvious media ploy…she should NOT hold a town hall. Thanks to angry liberals, these have become nothing more than hostile attacks by nasty and sore losers intent on doing nothing more than trying to create a perception of chaos. Why play along? Who wants to watch another rerun of sniveling Dems and their faux outrage shouting down anyone who doesn’t agree with their politics of defeat?


AndrewHoya and Robert Smith, which “attack” is inaccurate?  Are Dems not constantly asking for free stuff (the ACA is basically a wealth transfer program)?  Do they, especially the activists, not want free college even though for most it has little to no effect?  Do you not agree that many of the rich start their own business at huge risk and work incredible hours yet are constantly facing calls to have more of their wealth confiscated via taxes to give out to others?  You have seen many on these boards call me racist and xenophobic for policy differences yet I have been personally responsible for the legal immigration of 3 non-white immigrants.  We have heard the calls against Trump for his views on women but nothing by those same Dems against Bill Clinton.  And many Dems don’t even understand how the ACA, Medicare (75% of parts B/C are paid for by general tax revs), or SS (very progressive) work.

You may not like me pointing out these hypocrisies but you don’t even try to refute them.  So exactly who is name-calling?  Argue ideas and policies.  For once please.


RQS, what name calling?  All I did was call out the trap being set.


District10Constituent, well said.

Virginia SGP, way to go off topic with a blatant and mindless attack on one side. That was really productive. I hope you feel better having got that attack off your chest.


Comstock hard right?  Not by a long shot.  As a member of the hard right, we wonder why she is so moderate.

TribePlatypus, you and District10Constituent may have convinced me that I’m wrong.  District10Constituent’s reflections are the same as when she was pressed during the campaigns to make more statements of substance (we never got them) and the stump speeches were identical (“I’ve been endorsed by….” but no policy positions).

If honest answers have been sought and you’ve been deflected, then I understand the call for a Town Hall Meeting to get answers.  But, seeing how these Town Hall Meetings have been hijacked of late, I wouldn’t recommend holding one.

That said, the Congresswoman still needs to answer honest questions from her constituents with honest answers.


Brian and David - name calling and still referring to the 1990’s and 4 presidents ago -? Please try to grow up and make positive contributions. Your bile and hate is embarrassing. You both need a dose of respect.


I am more concerned that Rep. Comstock has already voted with the hard-right House Freedom Caucus 211 times out of 214 votes this year.  Loudoun is not part of the alt-right, are we?


I can’t say whether a town hall would really help assuage the liberals but let’s not pretend we have no clue what they wish to say.  It’s pretty simple:

1. Give us more free stuff.

2. To pay for the free stuff, confiscate more property (taxes) from those that work harder and take more risk than we do (the “rich”).

3. Open the borders and don’t enforce laws we don’t like such as immigration/identity theft.  Or at least don’t enforce it against illegal immigrants who will vote for our candidates.  Yes, we know it will cost us $T’s in future healthcare (uncompensated care/Medicaid/Medicare) and social transfers (SS) but we would sell the country for our side to win.

4. If somebody has a policy we don’t like, we will call them racist, xenophobic, homophobic, etc.  We expect you to fall in line and never engage with such an “enemy” again.

5. Our faux outrage has no bounds (see #4 above).  For example, you should never even talk to President Trump because he was not nice to some women.  Never mind that our hero President Clinton used gov’t security personnel to arrange for his female visits in both Arkansas and DC or that some women accused him of assault.  We like his policies so just ignore those minor “indiscretions”.  You must, however, hate Trump.

6. We especially want more free education.  Never mind that many of us take completely useless majors that have no chance of helping us ever recoup the costs.  We don’t really want to take those hard majors like STEM but we do expect those rich folks in #2 to pay for all this stuff.  And we don’t care that FDK or pre-K has no benefit whatsoever, we want the rich to pay for our kids’ childcare.  Why should we have to pay for anything come to think of it?

7. We don’t really understand the details of issues and we DEFINITELY don’t want our kids to be spoiled like Dems suggest the gov’t should baby the poor.  But we do know we are morally superior and more knowledgeable on issues than conservatives and libertarians.  Just don’t ask us any questions or expect us to have answers on these things.

This pretty much sums up what you will get from most Dems, from the activists’ requested town halls, and the Pelosi crowd in Congress.


David Dickson, I am curious what you think of the first comment from District10Constituent? This is someone who has called, written letters, and met with Comstock, as you suggested.
I know a number of Democrats who have actively been doing the same. I know of other Republicans and Independents who are doing the same.
I have gone to the various offices with them. I have attended their meetings. I went to a Townhall that was arranged for Rep. Comstock and even in her absence it was not a shouting match and did not devolve into whatever it is you think will happen.
This excuse that Democrats won’t behave and liberals will just whine is just insulting to people with whom you share the district.
Finally, Town Hall or no, it can also be said that Rep. Comstock’s image and statements are so carefully managed that they keep her safe while saying little. What is politically astute for some is “leading from behind” or even vacuous for others. Her claim to be a moderate is only as tenable as her ability to hide her staff handling from the likes of Bannon-Buddy Jeffrey Marschner.
Soon enough, she’ll have to engage with Democrats and the rest of the D10 Constituents that you image are so ill-behaved through the election process. And we shall see.


I get why people think that a Town Hall is a trap, a waste of time, or a ploy.  And as a constituent that often finds Rep. Comstock’s voting record opposite of her talking points, I too worry that a Town Hall would devolve in to an unproductive yelling session.

The key point of this letter shows up in the 8th paragraph: constituents, like me, don’t feel heard.  And here is why:

*Rep. Comstock’s staff in Winchester and Sterling are very polite (as am I when I call!); however, they routinely do not know where the Congresswoman stands on an issue.  More troubling, they don’t know HOW she voted or WHY she voted.  The DC staffers are better IF you can get one on the phone.  The interns read basic talking points that seem to come out days or weeks after an issue is in the national spotlight.  Sometimes the talking points have factual errors.  (For example, a recent talking point on Russia quoted Sen. Chuck Schumer—except that the quote was not true.  Not even “taken out of context” but actually along the lines of “was never said.”  I don’t think this was malicious, but I do think very little thought/understanding went in to it.)

*Form letters are the norm.  If they explained Rep. Comstock’s position, that would be one thing.  Whether it’s technology or human error, the form letter response generally has nothing to do with the issue that I’ve written or called about.  Write about healthcare?  Get a form letter e-mail about gun control!  Write about Russia?  Get a form letter about Planned Parenthood.  It’s a mess.

*I’ve attended Rep. Comstock’s teleconferences and met her in person.  She repeats the same talking points over and over, no matter the question.  Regardless of what you ask, you will get an answer that includes: curing diabetes, medical device tax, STEM, Metro, opioid addiction, community health centers, or safe zones.  There’s no depth to the answers, and certainly no additional information when a 2nd level question is asked.

I voted for Frank Wolf many times.  I didn’t agree with him on every issue.  But he knew how to make his constituents feel heard, and that allowed him to understand which issues were most important to them and focus on those.  Especially during a time when her constituents are more engaged than ever, Rep. Comstock is falling short where I feel her mentor and predecessor would have succeeded.

Would a town hall be useful?  I don’t know.  I doubt any new information would be presented, but it could be a start to making constituents feel like she’s listening. 

What I do know this for sure is this: Rep. Comstock, regardless of the medium, appears to be unable to listen, and incapable of having a dialogue.  She has a communication problem, and she’d be wise to solve it.


A town hall won’t save Comstock. Her teleconferences, small meetings and letters are unresponsive to questions posed. Her right wing votes are so out-of-touch with her moderate district that it’s laughable. Not even the GOP gerrymandering of VA-10 can save her!


Write a letter.  Call her office.  Ask for a 1-on-1 appointment.

The “town hall” push is Democratic political activists who want to gang up in public and make a show of it.


The benefit is that her constituents (those people that she represents) will have their voices heard so that she can represent them. Democrats are her constituents too. It’s a “trap” if your constituents are angry and want their voices heard? That “trap” is part of the job.


No, don’t hold a town hall.  Democrats are obviously setting this thing up for causing nothing but trouble.

What benefit would come out of this town hall?  Protesters whining and crying like liberal babies or perhaps some violence stoked by Democratic activists?

At least this editorial got one thing correct.  Rep. Comstock is politically astute, and she is smart enough to avoid this trap (which is visible from a mile away).

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