Deutch and West: Twins at town hall?

Congress is on leave from the muddy playground in D.C., where they have spent the last several months entrenched in a dirty game of tug of war, worthy of watchful spectators around the globe. Since neither side can claim full victory, it has been a challenge for the representatives of either party to go home and face the crowds of critical constituents.

Last week in Palm Beach County, U.S. Rep. Allen West received extra attention from the press as he attended multiple town hall-style meetings and explained his controversial vote to raise the debt ceiling. Monday night’s tea party gathering drew a crowd of almost 400. But West wasn’t the only one having to explain Congress’ embarrassingly low approval rating.

In Greenacres on Tuesday night, another standing-room-only crowd waited anxiously to confront its congressman about the job he was doing. Much like the West town hall, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch’s constituents were focused on their own personal, passionate concerns for the country’s problems. It was akin to a group therapy session as dozens of people waited in long lines to have their face time with Deutch. He, like a patient counselor, waited for them to spill out all kinds of frustrations before actually getting to the question. The seated crowd was exasperated with the extent of the lectures and advice coming from the predominantly independent and left-leaning interrogators. Deutch, however, was tolerant and good-natured for almost two hours, despite the tension in the room. Like West, he seemed to understand the public’s need to vent and express dissatisfaction.

While their ideology might be very different, both of these congressmen faced disappointed and irritated Americans with dignity and (seemingly sincere) empathy. They both drew standing-room-only crowds with plenty to say. The two were polite and knowledgeable with every answer given, and in many cases, they injected humor into the discussion to lighten the tense mood.

West suggested recently that he and the rest of Congress should be back in D.C. working on unfinished business instead of answering to the people right now, when crucial goals need to be accomplished. After witnessing the unflappability it takes to be center-stage at a town hall meeting in this historic economic environment, I imagine both Democratic and Republican representatives will welcome the idea of getting back to their colleagues in the confines of the Capitol building, where they can get back to unleashing their own frustrations.

Commissioner Paulette Burdick was in attendance.

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