This is an action diary. A surprisingly simple action that the biggest sunrise is the fact that progressive groups have not been exploring this method for years. Not the statement of being arrested to be heard but a connected method that could lead to a little less lobbyist and a little more people in the lives of our elected Democrats.
The action is not "in your face" going against the elected but promoting Democratic talking points, outside of their own offices. Friendly activist greeting visitors to the offices of the members of Congress while handing out printed information about our social safety that does not seem to be getting out to the general public.
This is not an action for one single person. You will need a group and you will need to convince others in that group to participate. Then the group will need to agree on the bullet points for the handout and the proper way to address the people coming and going. Really, at least for me, that is the hard part but the group can be as small as two. After that, my limited experience with this sort day, exchanging ideas out in the fresh air has been a very good one.
With just under two weeks before Congress returns to Washington perhaps this is a bit late but this could be the sort of action that we should be promoting and discussing while Congress is at recess. Perhaps this is not for you but it is hard to imagine anyone thinking of this as being counterproductive or being unworthy of the time it would take to promote. Please read what I have in this diary and consider the positive effects of engaging others in the campaign to protect our social safety net.
I need to stress that this is a different approach. This should be action that will bring you and your fellow voters closer to, not drive us further away from Democratic leadership. Standing outside of Congressional offices in many districts, both engaging our fellow voters who don't read progressive blogs and helping to create an informed constituency would be extremely productive. What if those people we meet, new found friends, find new found inspiration?
I look to the blogs for the best reason to think about friendly stagings at the offices of elected Democrats. It would seem that the number one selling point for Democrats is the claim that "Republicans suck!" Everybody seems to be in the mood for fighting. I agree, Republicans do suck but how does that inspire less involved voters to support Democrats? In this political atmosphere with obnoxious pundits and aggressive Republicans it almost seem like Democrats are invisible. The people don't seem the least bit inspired by that and low turnout has never been good for elected Democrats.
Doesn't it seem like interactions between voters and the elected are so confrontational now? Is there another answer besides fighting with Republicans? 13 percent of the U.S. public approves of how Congress is doing its job. Most of the people I know believe that writing to a representative from either Party is a waste of time. Others write through Progressive groups just so someone counts the letters. Outside of most progressive bloggers and the MSNBC crowd Democrats always seem to be grouped in with the troublemakers.
So organizing to decrease the distrust, a day out in the sun sharing the Party platform with others could help change the focus for at least a few. It could be so friendly that you could even call in advance, try to get an appointment to explain what you want to do outside his or her office, sharing information with people who lack information. It could be so friendly that after a while even Democratic State Representatives or local politicians might want to participate. Something like a unifying force?
Basically this action I've promoted in the past represents a meet and greet with your fellow constituents. More like a friendly informational picket line in Democratic districts to help others to find some hope in their elected officials. In the districts when Democrats are fighting for our social safety net the message could be "This is what out representative is fighting for and not being heard." For Democrats who are not taking a stand the message would be a little different. A secondary goal would be getting more elected Democrats to play a larger role in the national debate but the primary goal could be to get more of your neighbors to play a larger role in the politics of this nation.
If you have a Republican representative it could certainly be confrontational. We have Paul Ryan closing down to not hear from the public and Congress eliminating Town Halls to increase separation from the voters. There is some success to report and plenty of good reasons to get out there and protest Republican goals. You can sign up with the Contract for the American Dream for one of those a you against them rallies. But even with Republicans it dosen't always need to be about protest. In a Republican district, offering information to and friendly interactions with your fellow voters could lead to embarrassing questions from their own supporters. Instead of turning to visitors and saying "Will you get a load of those fools and their signs," it might just cause even more trouble for a Republican. Their own voters asking "What does Social Security has to do with the deficit?" Instead of protest signs ignored, if your story and your fact sheet ended up in the local newspaper, it could also help get the message out and could become a campaign slogan for the Democrat who will be challenging that Republican.
In Democratic districts can such an action help our elected officials find new methods of defending the social safety net? Helping to place more friendly and influential voices in front of our own elected officials could help to drown out some of the noise they are listening to, a reminder that the Republicans are lying when they say "My opponent is not in touch with voters." Perhaps even an inspiration to stand up to those claims. Sadly, standing up to the claims of Republicans does seem in short supply.
Consider who has appointments with members of Congress. A wide spectrum of voters that will include people who do not read the progressive blogs, people with limited knowledge of the issues and people who are disgusted. There are so many Americans who are totally disgusted today. Visitors might just also include voters who gave handsomely on the previous election. It could even include people who hosted fund raising dinners. Perhaps a small business owner who is struggling through this economy.
A best case scenario would be meeting one of these small business leaders in the community who is held in high esteem by the elected official and then that person sitting in a waiting room thinking about the very nice people that he or she had just had a conversation with. There is time to think about that conversation and one piece of paper to read while waiting to see and discuss the business at hand with the elected official.
What is on that piece of paper is whatever you and your group think will have impact with your fellow constituents. Certainly the fact that Social Security is solvent until 2037 and has no relationship to the federal deficit whatsoever. "Chained CPI" and "means testing" are mostly misunderstood so an explanation of those cutbacks would be helpful. Probably the point that, because seniors have a limited income, cuts to Medicare are the same thing as cuts to Social Security. Considering your target audience, a note about how the Republican controlled debate on austerity has created fearful consumers, unwilling to spend because so many expect a very hard upcoming retirement. The fact that the 2011 economy is being dragged down because of a debate to protect us from the perils of 2037 would help your fellow voters to get a handle on the situation.
Perhaps little to nothing will be said about that piece of paper. Maybe they will want to go over the points for clarification. It could even come down to a local retailer saying "I'm trying to run a business and my customers are staying away because of the Republican controlled debate. They think they are facing a poverty stricken retirement!" An elected official who should be in full agreement with the points on that piece of paper could be facing questions from a campaign contributor like "Are these points even listed on your webpage?" and "At the level of the press have you gotten into this debate at all?" Not as much a confrontation as a reminder that there are people outside of the office besides the lobbyist that take up too much of our elected Democrat's time.
While that could be very beneficial, the conversation that goes on between the constituent and your elected official is the smaller half of the payoff. I remember for the time I tried the best experience was when a responsive person who discussed the issue with the group came back out to discuss it some more. The one time I did it, it was years ago to promote what was then a very isolated H.R. 676. There was great satisfaction in expanding the knowledge of Single Payer to neighbors. Because of that effort, others who felt powerless actually got involved and increased the size of a group that was dedicated to moving H.R. 676 from a signature on a bill to support at the level of the press.
The present debate is more on American's minds now than Single Payer was back then. During this Congressional recess, cutbacks in our Social Security and Medicare is something most Americans are thinking about and feeling as a cut to our livelihood. The biggest payoff could be getting new people engaged. An even better best case scenario is those bullet points on your piece of paper having a letterhead and a contact number with one of those retailers agreeing to place it in their store window. That person telling customers about the people it came from. How about someone who thinks Social Security is a lost cause going home and calling their friends and neighbors with good news and also passing on that phone number. Perhaps one little old lady and some of her friends who want to get involved by setting up a card table with Social Security and Medicare facts at the local shopping center. That's the sort of action can go much further than what we are doing now.
These views of one blogger all sounds so far fetched. The sort of thing that dosen't have a chance getting off the ground. But you could change that. How great would it be to change just one person from "Ah they are all a bunch of losers" to a person who sees answers coming out of Democrats?