Some Americans would like you to believe their Republican members of Congress have mysteriously gone missing. Those constituents have turned to some creative ways to voice their displeasure.
After testy town halls for representatives like Utah’s Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa went viral, some GOP politicians are staying clear of town hall-style events in their home districts.
California Republican Rep. Paul Cook is probably yearning for the old days of angry letters and phone calls. Missing congressman notices have been photographed on milk cartons and posted to the @WhereIsPaulCook Twitter account and website.
Even the lactose intolerant of Cook’s district have been alerted to his “disappearance” via almond milk containers.
Some of the cartons read like a normal missing notice searching for a “73 yr old male, answers to ‘Colonel.'” “Despite constituents’ requests, refuses to hold town hall,” the notice continues.
Another California congressman who hasn’t been seen at a town hall recently is Rep. Darrell Issa.
The high-profile Republican failed to show up for a town hall on the repeal of Obamacare, a town hall he had never committed to attending. Hundreds protested, erupting in “Where is Darrell?” chants.
Issa also got missing posters of his own, with one reading: “Last Seen in Washington, D.C. supporting President Trump.”
A cardboard cutout of Waldo — of “Where’s Waldo?” fame — with Issa’s face stood in for the congressman.
Another version of Waldo joined the search party for Ohio Republican Rep. Michael Turner.
Political action committees have also gotten in on calling out members of Congress. While billboards are no milk carton, the Stop the Speaker PAC — an organization that aims to “make Paul Ryan’s life hell” — posted a photo of a billboard, which the group says is flying high above Ryan’s hometown in Wisconsin.
Madeline Schildwachter of Wilmington, North Carolina, has posted multiple videos to her Twitter account, calling for Rep. David Rouzer to hold a town hall.
“I started by calling and that wasn’t getting anywhere. So I started selfie videos to not just get his attention but to show people it matters,” Schildwachter said. “We have been nothing but cordial here in Wilmington. We aren’t paid protesters. We aren’t crazy activists.”
Some constituents have turned to more traditional tactics. Sen. Pat Toomey didn’t attend a town hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday night, so attendees propped up an empty suit. A progressive group in Florida is planning a similar “empty chair” town hall targeting Sen. Marco Rubio, who is traveling in Europe on business.
As outrage in some communities simmers, many representatives have opted instead for virtual options like “teletown halls,” where staff members have better control over questioning.
Not all Republicans are avoiding the spotlight. The Town Hall Project collects information on upcoming town halls, and it shows there are Republicans still scheduled to hold in-person events.
This wave of voter outrage isn’t new to town halls. In 2009 and 2010, it was Democrats bearing the brunt of voter outrage. And what was one of the major issues on the minds of voters then? Obamacare. Outlets for frustration change, but some things can make voters angry for years.