One of the most painfully abused terms in our political vernacular is a “town hall meeting.”
These events take place in a town, to be sure, and sometimes even in something that could be considered a hall. I guess any event that has a large number of people present could be considered a “meeting.” However, whatever resemblance these affairs might have to an actual town hall meeting was extirpated years ago.
Instead, what we have is usually a forum for a bunch of preening politicians or the debasement of a particular hot-topic issue. The former format has been the more popular of the two in 2019 — especially at CNN, where we’ve seen no shortage of these so-called “town hall meetings” with Democrat presidential candidates.
Viewers, it seems, are growing a bit sick of the idea — especially when the meetings include bottom-tier presidential contenders.
According to The Hill, the latest town hall meeting on CNN Sunday night, featuring New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, garnered the lowest ratings of any town hall on the network so far.
It’s probably not surprising, given the fact that both de Blasio and Bullock are mired at 0.7 percent each in the latest RealClearPolitics polling average. However, the 402,000 viewers — with only 82,000 in the 25-54 demographic — is surprisingly low.
While Bullock isn’t necessarily a big name, de Blasio is, even if his poll numbers don’t necessarily demonstrate it.
CNN ended up finishing last among cable networks during the 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. time slot.
“Fox News finished first during that time slot, averaging 873,000 total viewers. MSNBC was second, with 664,000 viewers to CNN’s 402,000,” The Hill reported.
The numbers are about 25 percent lower than CNN’s ratings usually are during the Sunday time slot, which means some airport staffers must have been so sick of these things they decided to turn the terminal’s TVs off.
This isn’t the first time a low-polling candidate turned in an embarrassing ratings performance in one of these interminable events, either.
Back in April, for instance, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand turned in a 495,000-viewer performance, something commensurate with what was then a 1.1 percent polling average. (The town hall certainly didn’t help matters any in that department; she’s since slipped to a 0.5 percent average, even lower than Bullock and de Blasio.)
So, what did you miss if you decided you had anything better to do than watch the town halls?
Well, for starters, de Blasio was heckled by a protester over his handling of the Eric Garner case, where an unarmed black man died after being arrested by New York City police. He also had a “please clap” moment when he asked for applause for a nurse. Even the liberal website Mediaite described the whole event as “cringeworthy,” which sounds about right.
Denizens of Twitter were equally unimpressed.
Town hall Bill de Blasio without the ability to belittle his own commissioners is strange
— Anna Sanders (@AnnaESanders) August 25, 2019
Missed the CNN town hall, rats.
Did anyone ask de Blasio abt property taxes, the 6% + 20% assessment caps, condo undervaluations, + the transitional assessed value rule for class 2 + class 4 properties?
Definitely one of those questions that can sink a presidential campaign!
— Aaron Carr (@aaronAcarr) August 26, 2019
me looking at my content calendar for today and seeing “steve bullock / bill de blasio CNN town hall” pic.twitter.com/iGVKOrT6fW
— anthony rei (@anthonyberteaux) August 26, 2019
Bullock, meanwhile, seemed determined to cement his position as a moderate in the Democrat field — which, if it’s 2019 and your name isn’t Joe Biden, is a bit like being a car dealer trying to shift AMC Gremlins. He made clear he was against gun buybacks and “Medicare for all,” claiming he would supplant Obamacare instead.
“I don’t think the best way is to start all over. I don’t want to take away employer-sponsored health care,” Bullock said of his plan, according to CNN. “I look at this as an add-on, not a complete teardown.”
“The way we get to full access and affordability isn’t to start over. It’s to build on what we have.”
Neither candidate did a whole lot to help his chances, in other words. CNN posted a wrap-up article titled “6 takeaways from CNN’s town halls with Steve Bullock and Bill de Blasio.” I think there was only one takeaway, however: It’s probably time for some Democrat candidates to start dropping out of the race.
Neither Bullock nor de Blasio is going to make the next round of debates unless a miracle happens. Their place at the table in future debates, meanwhile, hinges upon their ability to draw attention to their respective campaigns when there are still over 20 candidates in the race.
As Sunday proved, that attention doesn’t look like it’s going to come — no matter how many of these interminable town halls they do. As it stands, I wouldn’t be waiting for that invitation.
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