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!

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 76 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 35 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

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

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

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

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • 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 have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 19 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.