Mark Pocan (copy)

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, speaks during a town hall-style event on health care Saturday, July 8, 2017, in the Great Lakes Auditorium at Gateway Technical College in Racine. 

Rep. Paul Ryan is so afraid of his constituents that the speaker of the House says he will no longer hold public town halls in his First Congressional District. The career politician used to be quite willing to talk to his constituents. But as he has embraced the pomp and circumstance of his speakership, and as he has aligned ever more closely with President Trump, Ryan has begun making excuses for why he won’t talk to the people he’s supposed to represent.

The worst of these is Ryan’s recycled claim that "I don't want to have a situation where we just have a screaming fest, a shouting fest, where people are being bused in from out of the district to get on TV because they're yelling at somebody.”

That’s an absurd statement. The people begging Ryan to meet with them in Racine, Kenosha, Elkhorn and Janesville are not being bused in. They live in the district. There is no question of that — as Ryan’s colleague, Congressman Mark Pocan, has confirmed.

Pocan, a Democrat whose Second District neighbors Ryan’s First District, has in recent weeks responded to requests for town meetings from voters in Kenosha, Elkhorn and Racine. And he has found rooms full of people from ... Kenosha, Elkhorn and Racine.

Referring to the assault on health care protections that Ryan has proposed, Pocan told more than 100 people who gathered on Saturday at Racine’s Gateway Technical College campus: “If he won’t come and talk to you all about the bill that he wrote … then I thought I should at least be here to answer your questions so you know more about the bill.”

Pocan understands what Ryan does not: In a representative democracy, representatives are supposed to engage with their constituents on the issues of the day. 

John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. and @NicholsUprising

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