3 Reasons Why We Bird-Dog

Eric Zulaski on March 19, 2015

Why do we need you to get involved in the frenzy of presidential politics? Here are three reasons to get out and ask a question the next time you hear a candidate is coming to town.

In the midst of presidential campaign season, residents of New Hampshire and Iowa can hardly avoid the candidates. They're on TV, they're on the radio, they're in the newspaper, they’re in your local coffee shop. Some people quickly tire of the political horse race and change the channel or turn the page. Others might be content to follow their most (or least) favored candidates from the sidelines. But the bird dogs with Governing Under the Influence jump right into the thick of it—regardless of the candidate, regardless of the party. Why should you bother getting involved in the frenzy of presidential politics? Here are three reasons to get out and ask a question the next time you hear a candidate is coming to town.

1. We have incredible access.

Already many of the candidates have made multiple visits to the state for the 2016 race, and you can bet they will be back. Twice already I have talked to Senator Rand Paul in the last few months about the militarization of New Hampshire's police forces. That's just one example. You can have an ongoing dialogue with presidential candidates and follow up with them each time they return. Powerful corporations pay millions of dollars each year for political access. They know that access equals influence. You have access. You have influence.

2. We teach the candidates about issues that matter.

A big reason why candidates hold town hall meetings, do house parties and do meet-and-greets is to find out what voters care about. When candidates are asked repeatedly, in multiple locations, about the excessive power of corporations in our political system, they will realize this is something that’s on our minds. They may not give you the answer you want to hear, at least not right away. But we can steer the conversation in the direction we want. Bird dogs in Iowa and New Hampshire asked candidates Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee and Lindsey Graham about for-profit prisons driving the policies to incarcerate immigrants. They didn't have satisfactory answers, but they wanted to learn more. Then it’s up to us to follow up.

3. Other people are listening.

At some events reporters outnumber voters. Others, like WMUR’s “Conversations with the Candidates,” are produced for broadcast to larger audiences. When we ask questions—and get answers—about the undue influence of Pentagon weapons contractors on the nation’s defense policies, our interactions may get noticed in Washington, New York, Des Moines, and even in other countries.

It’s easy to get caught up in campaign trivia. It’s easy to lose sight of the issues when everyone wants to know who you are thinking to vote for. Ultimately that is what all elections boil down to. But in the meantime, our biggest opportunity is to shift the political discourse away from political trivia toward fundamental issues. That is why we bird-dog. So get involved!

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