"And if they're listening hard enough, maybe they'll come back to Washington ready to compromise and ready to create jobs and ready to reduce our deficit, ready to do what you sent them there to do."
So my friends, I ask you - what will they be hearing? If you don't go, if you don't make your voice heard, if you sit in front of your keyboard waiting for someone else to go to the town hall meetings, then what they will hear is the repeated talking points of the right wing. Because they will have people at those town halls - but we have the majority of the American people on our side on the issues. We have this fall an opportunity to set the narrative for the next year, and an opportunity to harness the populist will of the nation. We are on the right side - we need to prove to the people that Republicans are not.
So, how do we do it? I'm not going to focus on specific policy issues for you to use - you know what the issues are. My focus is on tactics that will give us what we need to teach America where these people stand.
Before you go:
Step 1: Find the meetings. Google is your friend - a search for "Town Hall meetings August 2011" yields plenty, and you can of course get specific by your congressperson. Know your congressperson, know their town hall schedule.
Step 2: Make your trip to the meeting a social experience. Facebook your friends you know are like minded. Tweet your intentions to go - "Heading to Meeting X on Date X - who wants to help me give (R) John Doe some tough questions?" Gather together as many friends, family members, and acquaintances as you can.
Step 3: Charge your batteries on your video camera. It's no good to catch a congresscritter saying something stupid if you can't then use that against them later. Macaca moments don't happen if there isn't a camera there to catch it. The last thing we want to give away is the ability for a congressperson to say "Well, that's not exactly what I said." Don't give them the opportunity for plausible deniability.
Step 4: Prepare. Know what you are going to say, and think out 5 possible responses your congresscritter might use and plan accordingly. You don't want to be fumbling for a response when the pressure is on. Know their talking points, and know how to dismantle them.
The meeting itself:
Step 5: Go early - get good seats. Nothing looks more like rabble rousing than showing up late and yelling comments from the back. It's our job to be the angry but controlled temper good citizen who is deeply engaged. You always want to look like the adult in the room. Don't worry, your tough questions are going to do more to put these people on the spot than anything else you could do. Find out the process for Q&A - use it. Get as many of our people asking questions as you can. Pack the room if you can - if you've got a big group, set the time to be there an hour early so that you get all the good seats. If you know you and your group aren't going to dominate the room, surround the person with the camera with your people. If the Howard Dean "Ye Ha" moment taught us anything, it's that the audio can make or break you. It won't matter a bit if the majority of the room is right wing if all the microphone picks up is the people immediately around you - and it will. As a general rule, keep the camera on the congresscritter. There's no reason to show the person asking the question unless who that person is or how that person looks works to your favor. Viewers will react to the person and not the message if the person speaking is distracting.
Step 6: Make your reaction to their answers heard. You don't want to be "that guy" that interrupts with something unrelated when they are speaking, but you also shouldn't sit silently when they say something ridiculous, like "corporations are people", or "taxing the rich will lead to fewer jobs". Avoid profanity - remember, you're going to be using this later if you get it on tape, so consider that you want to appeal to the widest audience possible. Shouting "BULL!" instead of "BULLS***!" will allow you to use your footage anywhere. If you have the people in the room behind you on something - press that advantage. If they cheer something you say, or you can feel from the vibe in the room that the majority agree with you, a well timed "Am I right?!!" will put the pressure on the speaker to respond, and makes great video.
Step 7: Review your video. Find the best moments, and edit your video where the best moment happens as quickly as possible after the video starts. The quicker the moment you are trying to highlight happens, the more eyes will see. People are impatient - get to the good stuff as quickly as possible. But don't edit out anything from the congresscritter's responses. Nothing says staged and fake like cuts in a video - you want the video to be exactly what occurred, but it should start at a point where it won't take the viewer long to get to the "moment". "But cre8fire, I don't know how to edit video!" - if that's the case, post it here or on any site with a lot of like minded people and ask for help. If you've got something good, trust me, you will have people falling all over themselves to help you get it right. There are also lots of free tools to edit video.
Step 8: Push your video out to the world. Upload it to youtube, then use that link everywhere you normally post. Make sure to make it public. Facebook it, tweet it - harness every social media outlet you can. If you are worried about the video being linked to you directly, again, ask around at a site like this and if you have something good, people will be falling all over themselves to post it for you.
I'm no expert on all this, though I do work in web communications and distance learning for a living. I feel certain that within this community are many, many more good ideas on how to make a great viral town hall moment happen. In my opinion, there's never been a better time to harness the populist anger of the people to our cause. Support for taxing the rich is high. Anger at congress is high. Anger at corporate malfeasance is high. We have a unique opportunity to seize the narrative, but it will work only if we get out there and do it.
We have to show up. We have to question our leaders directly - and we have to use this moment to educate those who have been misled or simply don't have the time to pay attention while scrapping out an existence in this deeply unbalanced society.
UPDATE: Rec list? Thanks so much - I'm honored! But I'll be even more honored when I start seeing those videos! ;) Seriously, feel free to hit me up if any of you who follow through on this need some help. It won't happen without us making it happen.
1:06 PM PT: poligirl had the good idea that there needs to be a place where we gather a list of town hall meetings, and has posted a diary for that! Thanks poligirl!
Crowdsourcing rules. You guys are the best at it!
4:02 PM PT: WAY TO GO GABE! Another Iowa State Fair moment - if you haven't seen and rec'd this yet, do! http://www.dailykos.com/...
Whatever your issue, make them respond and then show the world!