Bird Dogging Members of Congress

Activists have a lot to learn from a good bird dog.

Our canine friends watch intently for the opportunity to act. When they see an opening, they jump into action. They point out potential prey, inciting others to join in the hunt. And they relentless hound the target, chasing, not letting up, until it is treed, exhausted, and has nowhere to go.

These tactics are often the only ones that will move our agenda forward. We need to relentlessly bring up questions about the healthcare crisis and National Improved Medicare for All, with specificity, and demand an actual answer every time. Whether it is at a press conference, parade, fundraiser, church picnic or campaign speech, we have to hound candidates until we have them cornered, and lock down meaningful commitments.

How to best begin? Use the START method:

S -Start by asking something on National Improved Medicare for All. State a simple and specific question. Stay on subject. Send the message you are paying attention, and know this issue.
T -Task the target to respond. Give them time to tell you their take on National Improved Medicare for All. Make it clear you want an answer.
A -Ask again. If you don’t get anything, ask once more. If they give an actual answer, ask a follow up question.
R -Record the response. Make sure you write down date and time, detail and nuances, and document rationale.
T -Tell everybody. Talk to other activists. Share the response with media, voters and other decision makers.

Not sure what to ask? Here are a few good questions for any federal candidate:

  1. Do you support a National Improved Medicare for All as the best solution to the healthcare crisis?
  2. Do you support universal healthcare coverage?
  3. Do you support eliminating wasteful healthcare spending and redirecting administrative spending to direct patient care?
  4. Will you cosponsor HR 676: The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act?

Six Tips on Better Bird-Dogging:

  1. Grab the candidate’s hand, look her right in the eye, ask the question, and don’t let go until you get an answer.
  2. Listen for specific reasoning and logic, so you and other activists can better lobby that specific representative in the future.
  3. Think “What would be a good follow-up question?” whether they respond yes, no or don’t give any commitment.
  4. Ask “What will the audience get from this exchange?” The listening public should learn from your question as they listen, regardless of how it is answered.
  5. Call the candidate’s campaign office to get a schedule. Your newspaper may also list town hall meetings and other events.
  6. Have multiple questioners go to the event, entering and leaving separately, and sitting throughout the room.  Discuss priority questions in advance.

When National Improved Medicare for All activists are articulate, assertive and aggressive, our bird-dogging can persuade a good candidate to tighten up a position, get a middle-of-the road candidate to come over to our camp, or force a bad candidate to quit stumping on false healthcare solutions altogether. There’s nothing to it but to do it: Go out and bird dog!


Modified from Citizens Trade Campaign.

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