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Bird-dog for Democracy!

Make your candidates take a stand on trade.

Ever wish elections were less of a popularity contest?  Ever wish the candidates would take a stand on the issues you care about?   Ever wish your fellow voters knew a bit more about who they were voting for?  Ever wish you could make a greater impact than just casting a vote?

Now, in these next few weeks, we have a unique chance to shape the elections rather than watching as campaigns and media outlets shape them for us.  How?  Bird-dogging.  An underutilized tool in the activist toolkit, bird-dogging is simply pushing candidates to adopt public stances on the issues you care about.  During these next few weeks, those who hope to represent us in Washington are stumbling over themselves to respond to the public’s overwhelming calls for change.  With their career up in the air, they are particularly keen on listening to us, the voters.  But this only matters so long as we, the voters, make clear what we stand for and ask them, the candidates, to do the same.  

What’s so handy about attaining public positions from candidates?  Two benefits:

  1. Once the candidate takes a public position, you and others in your community will have a better idea of how to vote on November 4.
  2. If the candidate gets elected, you and others in your community can hold them accountable to the position adopted on the campaign trail (if it’s a good one).   

For evidence of bird-dogging success, check out the Iowa Fair Trade Campaign.  By persistently bird-dogging Presidential candidates with tough questions on trade and then publicizing their responses, this grassroots group pushed top Democratic contenders to reveal their most detailed positions on trade to date.
On what issue might we ask the candidates to state their position?  If we’re looking at US policies towards Latin America, one of our top priorities now is pushing back the spread of the US’s “free trade” disaster.  At no other time has free trade been such a prevalent election topic, such a controversial issue in the public mindset.  The WallStreet Journal has named trade as “the campaign fault line” of the upcoming elections.  A CNN poll recently showed that, for the first time, a majority of people in the US now oppose NAFTA-style free trade agreements (North American Free Trade Agreement).  Now is the time to use this momentum to tell our candidates:

  • No more NAFTAs—Reject the US-Colombia free trade agreement.
  • Renegotiate NAFTA and CAFTA, putting first workers’ rights, the environment, family farms and food security, access to medicines and essential services, and respect for sovereignty.  
  • Recognize that free trade deals, by provoking mass displacement, lie at the root of much migration.  Rather than repressive crackdowns on immigrants, we need to revamp our trade model and respect immigrants’ rights.  

Now, for the nitty-gritty.  How does one bird-dog?  Check out our "Seven Steps to Effective Bird-dogging."  Who should one bird-dog?  Check out our "Mid-Atlantic Big 25," your guide to the 25 hottest races in the mid-Atlantic, with profiles of each candidate, their positions and votes on trade, and their funding sources.  For further questions, contact Ben Beachy at wfpma@witnessforpeace.org.  Happy bird-dogging.

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