A Republican member of Congress elicited laughter from an audience — and not in a good way — when he suggested earlier this week that he listens to his constituents.
Rep. Erik Paulsen, a Republican who represents Minnesota’s Third Congressional District, was trying to explain to an audience during a debate with his Democratic opponent, Dean Phillips, how he comes up with ideas for legislation.
“Truth is, I get a lot of ideas from listening to people like you. Being accessible, being a good listener, those are where the ideas come from,” Paulsen said.
The response resulted in laughter and guffaws from the crowd.
Minnesota Congressman Erik Paulsen hasn't held a town hall in 7 years.— Spencer Bounds (@Spencer4Texas) August 27, 2018
In a debate with candidate @deanbphillips, Paulsen says he gets his good ideas by "being accessible" to constituents.
The crowd erupts in laughter.#ChangeIsComing. #EveryonesInvited. #MN03 pic.twitter.com/gecTtzLMKK
Paulsen, like many other GOP lawmakers, has avoided town hall meetings because they put him on the spot, allowing his opponents to catch him in difficult situations or for audience members to yell at him.
“People turn them into a gotcha moment or a shouting moment,” he said in March.
Still, he apparently saw the need to hold at least one day of town halls, doing three on May 30. Those were the first he’s done in close to six years. Paulsen likely acquiesced to the idea of holding those town halls because he needed to in order to keep his job — his race is currently considered a “toss up” by The Cook Political Report, and President Donald Trump actually lost the district Paulsen represents by 10 percentage points.
But the choice to hold these meetings with constituents out of survival rather than as a genuine service should indicate to voters exactly where Paulsen stands with them. It doesn’t seem as though he’s interested in listening to their ideas at all — only maintaining the appearance of doing so by holding one day of town halls over the past six years as representative.
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