The Tea Party exploded onto the national debate by disrupting Congressional town hall meetings with scare mongering about health care reform. You can bet that with the continuing debate about the deficit, the right-wing will be out in force again, because this is a tried and true way to reach elected officials and force them to listen to their constituents. It’s very important, therefore, that we make our presence known as well. Ideally, we can even take back the debate. The best part? You really only need a few people to pull this off, and it can be really fun.
1) Start with research:
- Find out how representatives in your area have voted on key issues, like whether they have signed on to co-sponsor the Progressive Caucus’ “People’s Budget” and if they supported the Paul Ryan GOP budget.
- Pick a target or two—those with progressive voting records (support them) or those who vote with the Right (question them).
- Research the public town hall meetings scheduled for your targets. If none is scheduled, call the office and request a private meeting with a staffer.
- Contact progressive organizations in your whose members may want to attend town hall meetings as well.
2) Find constituents who are also DSA members or friends:
- Look at your local’s membership list for the zip codes that are part of the target representative’s district(s).
3) Recruit people to participate:
- You’ll need at least two people. Whatever the size of your group, it will ideally include some people who live in the district. Remember, some people can’t make it at the last minute, so recruit as many people as possible.
4) Decide on your exact message(s) and messenger(s):
- Thank representatives who support progressive policies.
- Offer clear facts and messages for those you need to challenge, and make sure to end with a very pointed question.
- Decide who will do the talking (ideally everyone will chime in, but you need one person to be the one assigned to “get the ball rolling”).
- Realize that the point is to be maximally disruptive, so think up a few chants to convey your message and make sure everyone is comfortable with chanting and knows the chants.
5) Make signs, maybe even pie charts or graphs, that clearly state and illustrate your message, and be sure to include the DSA logo and/or website. If you have enough people, some (non-constituents only) can stand outside the venue with large signs. You can also smuggle small signs (on 8x11 paper) inside the town hall.
6) Send press releases to local media outlets before the event, but make SURE that you’ll have a good turnout of progressive folks who aren’t afraid to be loud before you do this. Also, be SURE that the people with your group who are actual constituents of the representative in question are prepared to talk to the media about why they are there. If you cannot recruit constituents to be part of your action, DO NOT send a press release or you’ll be branded as carpetbaggers.
7) Arrive VERY early. Sometimes these meetings fill up several hours early, so make sure you get there before the Tea Party does.
8) Sit scattered around the room (in a diamond shape), so you look like a larger group than you are, but don’t forget to wear DSA buttons and T-shirts, if you have them.
9) Assign several people the task of starting chants, and give them cues at various times throughout the meeting.
10) Remember to take pictures and videos and send them to the DSA national office ASAP so we can publicize your good work and inspire other DSAers to do the same!