The time has come for the people of the United States to take back what is rightfully theirs, the US Government. Today we will discuss and share some tactics that can be used to hold elected officials accountable for their actions. These are best practices which emerged from past events and our experiences, which will be useful for activists in just about any district or State where their politician(s) (these range from Governors to Congresspersons) have supported an agenda that has decimated the working class and our Republic.
Our objective is three fold. We want to put the politicians on the defensive, and give them a reality check from We The People. We want them to know that their constituents are angry and paying attention to their actions. This will also be a great opportunity to get the message out about American Reformers and help build group unity through direct action. We will use these techniques to pressure our elected politicians and hold them accountable.
We will organize and ensure that several group members will get a chance at the microphone to ask the politicians questions. Following the meetings the politicians will get a clear sense that the people in their districts or states are frustrated and paying attention to their actions. We humbly submit the following as a potential playbook to conduct these events and achieve the desired outcomes in most any targeted district.
Organize for Success
Alert people in your local American Reformers groups (from districts to even statewide) to watch for the first announcement of a meeting by your representative. These events will be town hall meetings in which the representative will take questions form the audience. There may be as little as a week's notice, and the local group leader will be tasked to distribute the meeting notice to as many group members as possible. We want to pack the meeting hall with as many supporters as possible, but this can be done with as little as ten people.
The organizer should go to www.projectvotesmart.org and obtain their politician’s voting record. It can be copied, pasted into Word, cleaned up, highlighted, and printed for distribution.
Questions should be prepared. Most politicians are pros at deflecting off-the-cuff questions. The questions should contain facts and numbers (which are embarrassing and damning to the politicians and their voting record). They can run up to five sentences or so - you will not be cut off at that length. The questions should put the politicians on the defensive and demand a specific answer. Also, anticipate the evasive, deflective answer and be prepared with a quick follow-up. The questions should be personalized to your individual politician(s).
For example, why did YOU vote for a tax cut that disproportionately favors the wealthy, while also voting to cut social programs to the needy? Make sure the question is specific, factual, and to the point. Use the Alinsky playbook: freeze it, attack it, personalize it, and polarize it. You only need to distribute five or six well-constructed questions to the group.
The voting record, pre determined questions, and any other relevant information that would place the politicians on the defensive should be distributed to the group members indicating a willingness to attend. People should be asked to meet in the parking lot of the property a half hour before the scheduled start of the meeting to coordinate.
If you want to have a maximum impact and don’t mind publicity, you could schedule a press conference with the local media outlets 20 minutes before the meeting is scheduled to begin. Tell them you are from American Reformers and explain to them why you are voicing opposition to the politicians’ voting record and agenda. Write and distribute a press release to local newspapers and TV channels for further coverage. Have someone available to read a prepared statement and answer questions posed by the media.
Meet and Deploy
The team should meet outside the property with voting record and questions distributed. Everyone should be asked to use one of the pre determined questions to box the in the politician. The team should also be advised to spread out inside the hall but should try to get seated in the front. The politician will inevitably start picking people toward the front for questions. Don’t all sit in one area together, spread out so they don’t know you are all coordinating.
The use of protest signs outside is an option if people bring them. However, those without signs should go early enough to get good seats. Those wanting the politician to see the signs will end up entering at the last minute and will likely end up in the back with less chance to be picked for a question. Do not bring the signs if you want any chance to be picked for a question.
On the Property
Spread out and try to be in the front half of the seating section. The objective is to put the politician on the defensive with your questions and follow-ups. The politician should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of the audience, opposes the agenda of austerity and their corporate donors. They need to leave the meeting with some doubts about their actions and know that the people are watching them.
The other objective is to illustrate for the rest of the audience that the politician is not serving their best interests. We want the independent thinkers to leave the meeting with doubts about the politician and think about the questions that were posed. If we couple this with speeches to the press, we can get a lot of people to realize that their representative is being dishonest and deceptive.
You need to rock-the-boat early in the politician’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge their statements early. If they blame any previous leadership for something or offers other excuses -- call them on it, yell back and have someone else tallow-up with a shout-out. Do not carry on and make a scene – just short intermittent shout outs. The purpose is to make them uneasy early on and set the tone for the meeting as clearly informal, and freewheeling. It will also embolden others who agree with us to call out and challenge with tough questions. The goal is to rattle them, get them off their prepared script and agenda. If they say something outrageous, stand up, shout out, and sit right down. Look for these opportunities before they even take questions.
When the formal Q&A session begins, get all your hands up and keep them up. Be persistent throughout the entire session. Keep body language neutral and look positive to improve chances of being selected. When called on, ask a specific prepared question that puts the pressure on them to answer. It can be a question including many statistics/facts. You will not be interrupted from reading a solid question. If you ramble on too long without a focus, you will be stopped. After the politician answers, or more likely diverts or dodges, be prepared with a follow-up. Take the initiative and you will be able to follow-up. The balance of the group should applaud when the question is asked, further putting the politician on the defensive. If the politician tries a particularly odious diversion, someone from the group should yell out “answer the question”. These tactics will clearly rattle the politician and illustrate some degree of their ineptness to the balance of the audience.
After the Meeting
Be prepared to explain to people why you were there and who you are. Tell them about American Reformers and try to recruit new members to your group. Bring fliers to hand out, detailing the Next Deal agenda, and information about American Reformers. Try to seek local media attention if someone from the group doesn’t mind publicity. Explain to the media why you oppose your representative, and give them examples of policy proposals from the Next Deal that you think your representative should fight for. GO have a celebratory drink with you group members, and relish in the fact that you just did your civic duty by holding your representative accountable!!
When the session ends, those who asked effective questions should seek out any press remaining at the event, providing their names for attribution, as you may be quoted in the press article. If the game plan above is implemented the resulting impact will likely be:
· A politician and their staff set back on their heels, recognizing that people in their district or state can see past the charade and are angry with austerity and the corporate agenda. After a couple of these sessions, the weaker ones will consider swaying from their party voting line.
· Audience members expecting business-as-usual go home recognizing that many of their neighbors oppose the agenda, see the dire financial impact, and see a politician exposed to some degree as a charlatan, and put on the defensive.
· Articles appearing in the local press will amplify the above points to the local community, rather than being puff pieces for the politician.
· People will wonder who these people are and what we are fighting for. It should be made clear that you are from American Reformers, an anti corruption group aimed at returning political power to the people!
We believe that we can reach the desired impact with a modest amount of planning and the dedication of only a few hours to attend the event. We will be travelling our states to provide a similar reality-check for all politicians. Just Imagine what we can achieve if we see to it that every politician in the nation who has supported austerity and the corporate agenda has a similar experience!