Representing Is Hard. Online Town Halls Can Help

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Michael Neblo
Kevin Esterling
David Lazer
Representing Is Hard. Online Town Halls Can Help

OPINION — At the end of the movie “The Candidate,” Robert Redford’s character wins a Senate seat, and then immediately pulls aside his most trusted adviser and asks, “What do we now?” After the divisive election of 2018, we imagine that many newly elected members of Congress are pondering the same question.

Our suggestion, based on over a decade of research: Go beyond business as usual. Make special efforts to connect with your constituents, not just interest groups and your most vocal supporters. These interactions can’t simply be infomercials, but must offer genuine, two-way engagement.

Doing so will be well worth it. James Madison emphasized the importance of members of Congress truly understanding a broad swath of their constituents. Of course, that’s harder today than it was in the early Republic, when members could be elected with less than 1,000 votes. Districts are much larger now, and policy is more complex.

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