As a brand-new fiscal conservative and Republican, I notice some of my new friends have little or no experience with political protests. They could use a few tips on how to talk to reporters and how to make the most of their tea party demonstration experience. I was a newspaper reporter for a couple of years in the 1980s, and because lesbians and women have had to fight for equality, I’ve participated in picketing, demonstrations, and marches since around 1974.
The most important thing you can bring to your tea party is your 30-second answer to the following question: “Why are you here?”
The tea parties will be covered by reporters and bloggers, who will be professionals or amateurs, for news outlets running the spectrum of conservative, libertarian, and liberal. (Among the amateurs may be people who will turn in their written and video interviews and digital photos to Pajamas Media. Pajamas Media is looking for citizen reporters — to sign up, click here.)
You must be able to tell a reporter in 30 seconds or less why you are participating in a political protest.
The funny thing is, the more you know about the damage President Obama and the Democratic Congress are doing to the U.S. economy, the harder it may be to give a simple answer. But a simple answer is the one that will get quoted. It will help if you write down your thoughts and rewrite them until you have a short list or statement that you can deliver in 30 seconds or less.
I am at the (name of place) tea party because I believe in the power of individuals and the businesses they create to generate the products, services, and jobs that will bring our economy out of the recession. President Obama and the Democratic Congress have got it wrong — the government can’t create good jobs or grow the economy. Money and jobs come from the opportunities that thrive when government is limited and lets you keep enough of your own money to make your own dreams come true. (Time: 25 seconds.)
The Democratic Congress passed stimulus legislation no one read before voting on it. President Obama signed it into law without reading it. The House just passed “cap and trade” legislation that no one read before voting on it. If “cap and trade” passes in the Senate, President Obama will sign it without reading it. “Cap and trade” is designed to make electricity prices skyrocket to force demand for unreliable alternative energy sources. We have got to put conservatives into Congress and the White House to restore responsibility to how we run this country. (Time: 28 seconds.)
If the reporter is scornful or disrespectful, just give your 30-second speech, thank them, and walk away. Do not argue. The game is rigged in favor of the reporter.
Just in case the reporter is respectful and has a follow-up question, have some facts in mind to back up your opinions.
Also, you do not have to answer the question the reporter asks. The tactful technique is to acknowledge the subject the reporter brings up, then say whatever you think is important.
Giving bad policies more time won’t make them work. What will bring our economy out of the recession and create jobs are policies that let people keep their own money, that allow businesses to prosper, and that keep energy prices low.
To get professional reporters to cover the tea parties, do not just rely on the organizers to get them to attend. Call the news organization, ask for the assignment editor — the person who decides what stories to cover — and tell them politely that the tea parties are an important news event and you hope they will send a reporter and photographer. For television, a reporter and camera crew. If you can’t get through to the assignment editor, get their name and email address and send a polite email every day until the tea party.
I know this is short notice for Independence Day, but this is advice for the future too, since we are going to keep having tea parties until we push Congress to a conservative Republican majority and the White House to a conservative Republican president. Begin now and get into the long haul, marathon mentality of consistent, persistent effort.
As for how to make the most of the tea party experience, tea party organizers should plan to use the gatherings to collect the names, addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of as many people attending as possible. Also have check boxes for specific jobs people can volunteer to do. I suggest printing up 3×5 cards with lines for the contact info on one side and a privacy statement on the other saying that you will not sell their information and stating how it will be used. Then have tables with boxes to collect the cards and make sure the boxes are never left unattended in order to prevent them from being stolen.
I can’t stress how important it is to give your contact info to the tea party organizers and for them to collect it. For starters, this is the list they can use for notices of future protests and to raise money.
The most important thing you can do as a tea party demonstrator is show up. You will be absolutely astonished to find that the biggest benefit you will experience is how encouraging and inspiring it is to be among like-minded people demonstrating for a noble cause. The feelings of affirmation and connection will keep you going through all kinds of adversity in the fight to preserve the United States as a democratic republic powered by capitalism and individual liberty.