Friday, May 18, 2012

let's query U.S. House candidates on Afghanistan!

In addition to Phyllis Bennis speaking on Afghanistan, Matt Southworth, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, spoke on behalf of Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Southworth told of growing support in the U.S. House of Representatives for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) have been offering amendments to pressure the President to set a timetable to get out. The last version of the amendment got over 200 votes (218 guarantees passage). This year McGovern and Jones offered a more forceful amendment that would have required withdrawal.

Republican leadership ruled the amendment out of order and refused to let the House of Reps vote on it.

I spoke to Matt about the possibility of getting members of the U.S. House on record individually on whether they would have supported the McGovern-Jones amendment.

He referred to having a list of eight questions he is going to ask or is asking all Congressional candidates about Afghanistan.

I envisioned a streamlined questionnaire.

1. Would you co-sponsor or vote for the McGovern-Jones amendment?
2. What should U.S. policy be toward Afghanistan?

One of the tricks I learned from John Anderson is to get individual citizens send questionnaires to their representatives (or candidates running in their districts). It makes it harder to ignore the questions if they are from voters.

In general, I think national organizations give their members too little to do. Write letters? Yes. Make phone calls? Yes. Donate money? Definitely!

But get engaged and take ownership of something that requires follow-up?

Southworth raised the point that some 501(c)3 organizations get nervous about too much political activity. Candidate questionnaires (at least in the past) were frowned upon if there was implied support on one side of the issue.

With a combination of 501(c)4 organizations, blogs, social media, etc. it shouldn't be too hard to get plenty of people asking their representatives and candidates to respond to a questionnaire on Afghanistan. And if a representative or candidate does refuse to respond, just list "Jane Q. Representative was contacted by at least 34 separate people who live in her district and she has not provided a response to the questions."

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