But if you're in a private space - like the office where you work, or in a theatre where you paid to be let into a corporate-owned for-profit place - you have no rights under the First Amendment. You can get fired for saying something the boss doesn't like, or thrown out of the theatre just for opening your cell phone. So let's assume you're a Congressman Paul Ryan, for example - and you just passed a bill that takes Medicare away from your voters - you may have some concerns about the questions your constitutents would put to you at a public town hall, right? So what do you do? Privatize the town hall! Move it into a private space, or a space under the supervision of a private corporation, and make it quite clear that its private and not just anybody can speak up, although anybody who misbehaves can be thrown out - just like going to the movies. Impossible, you say?
Well, from now on, if you live in Paul Ryan's district and want to ask him a question at a town hall - it's going to cost you"15 bucks to be exact. And not to be outdone, Ben Quayle is charging 40 bucks a question. It's the newest Republican trend. Paul Ryan and a number of other Republicans are now outsourcing their town hall events to private organizations that charge people at the door to attend. This is coming from the Party that supports the outsourcing of millions of American manufacturing jobs - that supports privatizing our commons - our education - our fire departments and police - and wants to privatize our roads and bridges and let their new corporate owners charge tolls to use them. Republicans even support outsourcing of our democracy itself to hedge fund managers and shadowy corporate CEOs by inviting them into political campaigns to pour in so much money for TV ads that they can determine the winners and losers. I guess it's not a big a surprise they're outsourcing their constituent outreach, too.
Those free and open town hall meetings that have been the backbone of our representative democracy for hundreds of years - are now being shut down because Republicans don't like the feedback they're getting from their constituents. Republicans don't want to be asked about their real agendas - especially now that they're busy dismantling Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security - and giving billions in corporate welfare to the wealthiest people in the nation at the expense of the poorest. That does tend to make a lot of average people angry.
So from now on - to avoid their angry constituents - Republicans are reaching out to groups like the Republicans Lawyers Association - the National Federation of Independent Businesses - maybe the Chamber of Commerce - or even Koch industries - to sponsor and/or run their town halls - and charge people money to ask their Republican congressmen and women questions - and keep a black list to make sure anybody who may ask a tough question - can't get in. This is taking the idea of running government like a business to extreme lengths. Government is not a business...it's We The People.
And we shouldn't have to pay to talk with our members of Congress. What's next? Every time you want to send a message to your Congressman you have to text-message it, so he gets your cell number and can sell it to telemarketers? I'm sure they'll figure out some sort of hustle. Leave it to the Republicans to turn democracy into a way to make a buck - and in the process keep out anybody who may disagree with the sell-off and sell-out of America. And Free Speech? They don't need no stinkin' Free Speech. As Sean Hannity - with his $200 million contract - so often says - "Freedom isn't free." What do you want to bet that by next year it's up to fifty bucks a question?
Welcome to the new Republicans, the best political party money can buy.