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US election word of the week: town hall meeting

 © PhotoDiscIn this series we are looking at some of the language and terminology associated with the US electoral process in the run-up to the Presidential election in late 2016. This week’s word is town hall meeting.

President Obama, in London for a brief visit a couple of weeks ago, found time in a packed schedule to attend what was widely described as a “town-hall” style meeting attended mostly by students with a few celebrities thrown in:



Saturday’s “town-hall” style meeting saw 500 young people invited to Lindley Hall, at the Royal Horticultural Society in central London.

The quotation marks are a nod to the fact that such meetings are not part of the UK’s political traditions, the closest thing to them being a hustings, but these are held only during election campaigns. Town hall meetings, or town halls as they are also called, have been a feature of US political life and local governance for centuries but have only recently become an unofficial part of the presidential election process. Having been popularized by Bill Clinton in the 1990s, both during election campaigns and in the course of his presidencies, they have become an indispensable way for candidates to show that they are in touch with the country’s democratic roots. At a town hall the candidates come face to face with the voters and show that they are willing and able to answer their questions on a wide range of subjects.

Look out for the next post in this series. You can find past posts on the language of American politics here and here, or search for other posts in this series using the tag US politics.

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Liz Potter

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