How to Impact Town Hall Meetings

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!

Feminist Working Group

December 14, 2016
· 49 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the election.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Turning Members into Leaders

December 28, 2016
· 17 rsvps

Are you starting a new group? Or have you been doing most of the work for your longtime group? Has it been hard to keep new people involved or get them to take responsibility? But suddenly everybody wants to jump in at the same time! Learn how to mentor new leaders and make sure they have all the information and tools they need to succeed.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

NOTE: This training is at 9:00pm Eastern (8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6pm Pacific). Please RSVP.

Instructor:

  • Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy.

In Leadership Development you will learn:

The proven steps to developing the leadership skills and commitment of more members:

  • identifying potential leaders
  • recognizing what each one brings to the group
  • asking people to volunteer
  • giving them specific tasks
  • supporting them in their efforts
  • creating opportunities for new leadership
  • following up.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for local leaders who will lead campaigns in their chapters.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt talt@igc.org 607-280-7649.
  • If you think you can't do it by computer, contact Tony Schmitt schmittaj@gmail.com 608-355-6568.
  • You can participate in every workshop or just attend once in a while.
  • Workshops will generally be on a weekends or evenings.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance -- by midnight Monday.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

January 19, 2017
· 53 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8:30 PM ET; 7:30 PM CT; 6:30 PM MT; 5:30 PM PT.

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 10 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.