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!

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

May 25, 2017
· 38 rsvps

Join DSA's Queer Socialists Working Group to discuss possible activities for the group and its proposed structure. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

What Is DSA? Training Call

May 30, 2017
· 48 rsvps

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 93 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 26 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.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

June 13, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Join Bill Barclay, Chicago DSA co-chair, and Peg Strobel, National Political Committee and Feminist Working Group co-chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement. 9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Bill Barclay, chocolatehouse@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 7 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 5 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.