Galvanize Your Base to Confront the New CongressSubmitted Wed Feb 09 2011 17:14:00 GMT-0500 (EST)
by Shayna Engin
This is a guest blog post from Shayna Englin of Englin Consulting. Shayna will be hosting a special in-person workshop on Thursday, February 17 about galvanizing your base of supporters to confront the new congress.
If you're involved in progressive politics or policy, it might feel that the pendulum has swung so far away from us that we can't see it anymore. It's dispiriting for sure, but needn't be hopeless. With solid strategy, a bit of creativity, and a willingness to let go of some not-so-wise conventional wisdoms, we can turn these tough times into opportune times.
Think carefully before mobilizing your advocates or recruiting new ones on a promise that their actions will generate change. At the Congressional level we'd be hard pressed to justify a claim that sending that one more email or even making that one more call will change the way a member will vote on critical issues of the day. Even at the state level, policymakers have just won elections based on very public and unambiguous positions against many of the progressive community's priorities. Respect activists enough to be honest, and be creative and strategic enough to come up with alternative ways for them to make a difference.
"Representative Teepar Tier has turned his back on kids in public schools. There's a phone number at the bottom of this message that you can call to express your disappointment with him, but before you do, take this pledge to make sure three of your neighbors who vote know that X, Y, Z and that the next election day is an opportunity to do something about it."
"Representative Teepar Tier has turned his back on kids in public schools. Call him today to demand he vote for education opportunities for all!"
If you work at the state level and your legislative targets are smart, they use your activations to build their own lists. Why help out your unsway-able opponents in that way? Rather than activating everyone in the same way, target your mobilizations as narrowly as possible. Focus petitions, emails, calls, and meetings on committee and subcommittee members who have an immediate role in the process and might be persuadable. Mobilize your activists in other districts in less direct-to-legislator ways, like letters-to-the-editor, call-ins to local talk radio, hand-outs at subways, bus stations, or grocery stores. Focus your legislator attention on those decision-makers you might actually be able to move and focus on moving voters in the districts represented by hard-and-fast opponents.
Develop political Jujitsu
Nothing builds a movement better or faster than successes, which might feel few and far between right now. We need to learn the art of political jujitsu - turn our short-term losses into long-term wins by organizing around them. Organize "pledge-a-hater" drives to raise a dollar and awareness around opponents' actions. Green groups should be raising a dollar for every case of pediatric asthma in districts with Members of Congress advocating against regulating particulates in the air. Jobs groups should be raising a dollar every time a legislator who votes against unemployment benefits or investments in education utters the phrase, "job-killing." You'll raise money, take the edge off of opponents' barbs, and create opportunities to communicate your stories.
A non-fundraising political jujitsu move would be utilizing "click to call" technology to generate calls to a state office, with the stated goal of overwhelming them with enough sentiment to keep the phone lines busy on a given day. You can hit that goal, it's a demonstration to your supporters that they're not alone, and you'll build your list (or at least your knowledge about who on your list does what) in the process. Note: Salsa's Marketplace provides a Click to Call plugin through New Signature.
Shayna will be hosting a special in-person workshop on Thursday, February 17 about galvanizing your base of supporters to confront the new congress.
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