Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Cocktail Party in the Street

I thought I'd write a little about small political protests. Such events may deter conservatives, because the idea of a "protest" seems hostile, and conservatives tend to be calm and polite. Surprisingly, small protests are quite different from large events like Tea Parties, but not more aggressive. They're like cocktail parties in the street!

Tea Parties and other large events like the Stimulus Protest this past spring are huge events, ranging from hundreds to thousands of people. Here in Denver, we had up to 10,000 people at the April 15 Tea Party.

Last month I heard that the liberals were staging a Single Payer Healthcare Rally at the Denver Capitol. A bunch of us got the word out in order to form a counter-protest, but we only had a few days' warning, and didn't have any sense of how many people might show up. My husband and the kids came with me, and we were the first ones there. The liberals were on the steps of the Capitol, so we decided to hang out on the sidewalk across the street with our anti-government healthcare signs.

Soon, a man with a political t-shirt sidled up to us, checking us out to see which "team" we were on. He turned out to be from the Independence Institute, and brought several friends along. Then a friend from Facebook showed up, and a Congressional candidate who brought his entire family, and a friend from R Block Party. Our group totalled about 20 people, all milling about and talking and introducing each other. There were at least ten children, too, who mostly played in the adjacent shady park.

My friend Katherine and I made up a song, sung to the tune of Kum Ba Yah. Here are the best verses:

"Someone's paying healthcare."
"Someone's waiting healthcare."
"Someone's dying healthcare."
" healthcare."

While we held our signs and talked, cars drove by and honked in support. A few of our people walked over to the liberal side of the street, some to infiltrate and take pictures, others to bait the government healthcare ralliers into screaming tirades. (Pretty much your mere presence can bait a liberal into a tirade.)

Since I had my kids with me, I stayed on the conservative side of the street and introduced myself to the people I didn't know. I had a marvelous time meeting these new people, added quite a few of them to my subscriber list, and regularly hear from two of them now. As we send out political alerts about events and important news, we now include each other on the distribution lists.

Then in July, announced another health care rally. My daughter and I were the first protesters to show up at Senator Bennet's Denver office. And then it happened again. A man approached us and casually said, "Tea Party?" We laughed and said, "Yes!", and he said, "Lemme go get my sign!" In singles and pairs, conservatives showed up. One lady was from the 912 Group, another was from the Coalition for a Conservative Majority in Colorado Springs, then a Ron Paul fellow, plus a doctor and a lawyer and a brand new activist. My excellent neighbors Kim and Mark showed up too! The media arrived. We were all so busy chatting with each other that the news crew had trouble getting our attention for an interview.

Now that I've been to two of these small protests, here's my advice: When you go, arrive on time, and stand away from the liberal group. Bring extra protest signs to share with others. If you arrive at the Capitol or the legislator's office and don't see any other protesters, simply go inside to the legislator's office. Once there, politely tell the staff that you're there to voice your complaint about that particular pending legislation. (They get phone calls like that all day long, so they'll take it in stride.)

Bring along some business cards or pen and paper, maybe a camera. You're going to meet very enjoyable people. Some of them will be members of local activist groups which you may want to know more about. Some will have email lists for political news. You won't need to engage with any liberals unless you truly seek them out.

The conservative movement benefits from your activist participation Each time you step outside your comfort zone and do a new activity, you get more relaxed about it. Then you can convey your enthusiasm to friends, co-workers and relatives. They in turn are then more likely to participate as well.

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