2018 Birddog Question

Housing Works • Center for Popular Democracy

In early 2017, a national network of thousands of birddoggers came together to help defeat the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. We showed up at town hall meetings and then put our bodies on the line in Washington to stop the repeal.

A year later in 2018, the network is now showing up for candidate forums and meet-and-greets, and asking members of all parties to support the healthcare policies we need, going beyond just defending the ACA and pushing for universal, publicly-supported healthcare for everyone.

Birddog Nation is diverse and still growing quickly, and while we will mostly focus on healthcare, there are many more issues and many more demands that can--and should be made!

We are united to push for health for all. At the same time, many of the people and groups out birddogging see healthcare as just one of the key issues to raise with our elected officials and aspiring candidates. The sample, suggested questions here are only a handful of the issues that are animating the Birddog Nation.

Below is a set of policy recommendations, in the form of birddogger questions, that were crowd-sourced from the network, vetted by experts and allies, and reviewed by candidates running in red and purple districts. Since the best birddog actions involve “winning the room”, the questions seek to avoid technical jargon and partisan red flags that divide the candidate’s room full of potential supporters. We aimed for deeply felt, widely understood requests that candidates from any political party could say “yes” to, without costing them their chances of winning their race. Skillful birddogging wins over most of the people in the room (or at least doesn’t alienate them), and allows a target to say “yes” and look good—or say “no”, and expose themselves as people who are unworthy of voter support.

SUGGESTED TOP-LINE REQUESTS FOR FEDERAL OFFICE SEEKERS

(see next section for expanded, more detailed platform)

Good birddogger questions are 60 seconds long or less.

About 2/3rds of every question is a powerful, emotional personal story about yourself or someone you care about--a story that resonates with the people in the room, and generates sympathy--we want to 'win the room.'

The last 3rd of a good question is a request for specific, measurable action, that assumes little prior knowledge on the part of the candidate or other participants, and makes sense to everyone.

Good questions request specific actions in the future, rather than looking backward, and avoid jargon and partisan buzzwords that close off conversation.

QUALITY HEALTHCARE FOR EVERYONE

1a. Will you fight for a health system that ensures all of us can walk into a health center when we need to, get care that is at least as good or better quality than we have now, and then pay only a modest amount that we can afford?

1b. Will you reduce drug prices by revoking the patent monopolies the government grants to drug companies when they charge us in America more than they charge in other high income countries for the same product?

1c. Will you fight for a health care system that covers everybody regardless of age, income, or pre-existing conditions, and costs no more out-of-pocket than 8.5% of our income?

1d. Will you win the war against deadly opioid addiction by funding rapid, universal access to addiction treatment medicine, providing overdose prevention tools to many more people, and making sure that new funds are for public health programs, instead of law enforcement?

-more health care Qs in expanded platform below-


END MASS SHOOTINGS. END GUN VIOLENCE.

2a. By 2019, will you pass a law that bans assault rifles and keeps guns, bumpstocks and giant bullet clips out of the hands of civilians who could shoot children or other humans?

2b. Will you also require weapons buyers and sellers to be licensed, buy insurance, undergo background checks and register all their guns?


EQUALITY AND FREEDOM FROM DISCRIMINATION AND SEXUAL HARASSMENT

3. Will you commit to passing a new equal rights law that guarantees hiring equity and equal pay for equal work, and uses tax incentives and penalties to end, by 2025, disparities in employment, housing, policing, and sentencing based on gender, race, religion or sexual identity?

-more equal right Qs in expanded platform below-


UNIVERSAL EMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC INCLUSION

4a. Will you support an economic fairness plan that achieves full employment by 2025, guarantees that the minimum wage is a living wage of at least $15 an hour, and offers free college or trade school to people displaced from declining industries?

4b. Will you fight to pass a law ensuring that all workers have paid sick and family leave, and childcare that costs no more than 10% of annual income?

4c. Will you commit to closing corporate tax loopholes and forcing corporations and wealthy individuals to pay their fair share of taxes? Will you support ending the use of tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals?


FAIR ACCESS TO QUALITY EDUCATION

5a. Will you commit to free quality public education for all of us, including federal funds for early childhood programs, as well as funds to ensure everyone can graduate from public college or trade school debt-free?

5b. Will you support high quality public schools for all children, regardless of geography, income, or background, by passing a fair-funding formula with new federal dollars that ensures adequate and equitable resources for every teacher and classroom, based on what they need? It should incentivize states to do the same.


RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

6a. Will you commit to a fair criminal justice system that aims to rehabilitate individuals, and eliminates disparities in enforcement, prosecution, and sentencing by 2025?

6b. Will you end harsh mandatory minimum sentences and excessive drug laws that bankrupt our legal system and keep non-violent offenders behind bars?

6c. Will you commit to ending unfair and ineffective policing practices such as cash bail and racial profiling?

-more restorative justice Qs in expanded platform below-


WELCOMING IMMIGRANTS

7a. America has always been a nation of immigrants. Will you reflect this value by welcoming refugees and immigrants, and supporting a short path to citizenship for DREAMers, aspiring citizens, and those escaping oppression and violence?

7b. Will you push measures to ensure that immigrants aren’t singled out by local or federal law enforcement, and protect people who are detained by immigration raids by passing a policy that guarantees access to legal counsel?


PROTECT AND RESTORE THE ENVIRONMENT

8a. Will you lead an effort to to pass a law that commits the United States to 100% renewable energy by 2030?

8b. Will you launch an initiative that incentivizes use of renewable energy, and creation of clean-energy jobs and R&D in communities hard hit by pollution and declining legacy industries? This initiative should be funded in part with a tax penalty on polluters.

-more environmental justice Qs in the expanded platform below-


LGBTQI EQUAL RIGHTS

9. Will you lead a national effort to protect people of all gender identities and sexual orientations from discrimination, harassment, and violence, especially in the workplace, and when seeking housing and healthcare?


VOTER PROTECTION

10a. Will you lead an effort to pass a modern voting rights act that reduces barriers to voting, and incentivizes states to adopt same-day and automatic voter registration, make poll sites and hours more convenient, and expand early and mail-in voting opportunities?

10b. Will you support efforts to restore the right to vote to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Americans?

10c. Will you commit to upgrading national election systems security, so that votes are human-verifiable, and that no one can hack our elections?


AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND ENDING HOMELESSNESS

11. Will you lead an effort to make housing more affordable for everyone, and commit to fighting for a housing system that makes sure that, by 2025, no one earning below 200% of the poverty line pays more than a third of their income for rent? This means setting targets for affordable housing development, increased rental subsidies, preferential loans, and tax incentives.


POLITICAL FAIRNESS

12a. If elected, will you commit to holding at least four town halls per year, in-person, in-the-district, and open to all, and with the majority of time for answering unmoderated, uncurated questions from the public?

12b. Will you support efforts to end partisan gerrymandering so that voters pick candidates, rather than candidates picking voters?

-more political fairness Qs in the expanded platform below-

Expanded Platform Bullets

QUALITY HEALTHCARE FOR EVERYONE

1a. Will you commit to a health system in which everyone can go to a health center, when we need to, get what we need to stay healthy, and then pay only a modest amount that we can afford?

1b. Will you reduce drug prices by revoking government-granted monopolies to any drug company that charges Americans more for medications than it charges people in the next 10 richest countries?

1c. Will you fight for a health care system that covers everybody regardless of age, income, or pre-existing conditions, and costs no more out-of-pocket than we can afford?

1d. Will you win the war against deadly opioid addiction by funding rapid, universal access to addiction treatment medicine, provide overdose prevention tools to many more public officials, and change drug laws and enforcement practices that put victims in jail, instead of in treatment?

1e. Will you fight to pass a law that commits the United States, to improve health outcomes here in the next five years to at least match the average of the next 5 richest countries, including for maternal and reproductive health, mental health, and addiction treatment?

1f. Will you help pass a law that provides in-home community services to people living with disabilities, and seniors, so we we can all live and contribute productively in our homes and communities, rather than being locked away in expensive nursing homes and institutions?

A healthcare plan must include:

- Special focus on ending health crises like HIV by 2025, diabetes, cancer, opioid addictions and overdoses, and diseases of poverty that primarily affect people of color and LGBTQIA;

- Home and community services, such as those outlined in the Disabilities Inclusion Act, to enable seniors and people living with disabilities to remain in their homes and communities;

- While reaffirming and restoring the ADA;

- Reigning in unfair drug prices by allowing government-wide price negotiating authority, and increasing our negotiating power to suspend government-granted monopolies when a corporation charges Americans higher prices than other wealthy countries;

- Coverage for mental health, dental and vision care, physical and occupational therapy, substance use services, and comprehensive women’s reproductive health;

- Public financing and cost control measures sufficient to cover everyone and reduce out-of-pocket expenses to a modest level, based on one’s ability to pay;

- Access to gender affirming hormone therapy and surgeries for transgender and gender non-binary people who desire it;

- Support for access to all aspects of reproductive health care, including access to abortion;

- Repeal of the Hyde amendment, so that federal funds can be used for abortion;

- Repeal of parental involvement laws for reproductive health care, including abortion.


END MASS SHOOTINGS. END GUN VIOLENCE.

2a. By 2019, will you pass a law that bans assault rifles and keeps guns, bumpstocks and giant bullet clips out of the hands of civilians who could shoot children or other humans?

2b. Will you also require weapons buyers and sellers to be licensed, buy insurance, undergo background checks and register all their guns?

A gun violence plan must include:

- Banning civilian ownership of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, of bump stocks, and of bullet clips exceeding 8-10 bullets;

- Expanding licensing and liability insurance requirements, advance training, purchaser vetting, and gun registration prior to any gun purchase;

- Imposing more strict requirements on gun and ammunition storage when not in use;

- Imposing sanctions and suspensions on gun owners with domestic violence offenses, restraining orders, or making threats to themself and/or others.


EQUALITY AND FREEDOM FROM DISCRIMINATION AND SEXUAL HARASSMENT

3a. Will you commit to passing a new equal rights law that guarantees hiring equity and equal pay for equal work, and ends, by 2025 all disparities in employment, compensation, housing, policing, and sentencing based on gender, race, religion or sexual identity?

3b. Will you ensure that women and people of color gain better enforcement of expanded legal protections from discrimination, harassment and abuse in the workplace, at school, in our communities, and in our personal and professional relationships?

Protection against sexual harassment must include:

- Safe leave policies, so employees who need to escape dangerous circumstances at home are secure in their employment;

- Changing the statute of limitations for sexual assault violations.


UNIVERSAL EMPLOYMENT AND ECONOMIC INCLUSION

4a. Will you support an economic fairness plan that achieves full employment by 2025, guarantees that the minimum wage is a living wage of at least $15 an hour, and offers free college or trade school to people displaced from declining industries?

4b. Will you fight to pass a law ensuring that all workers have paid sick and family leave, and childcare that costs no more than 10% of annual income?

4c. Will you commit to closing corporate tax loopholes and forcing corporations and wealthy individuals to pay their fair share of taxes? Will you support ending the use of tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals?

Economic fairness must include:

- Expansion of the ability of workers to organize and be recognized without retribution;

- Banning of forced arbitration contracts;

- An end to predatory payday lending;

- A strong, independently funded CFPB;

- Public investments in renewable green energy production and infrastructure, as described elsewhere in this platform;

- Support for families and education, as described elsewhere in this platform.


FAIR ACCESS TO QUALITY EDUCATION

5a. Will you commit to free quality public education for all of us, including federal funds for early childhood programs, as well as funds to ensure everyone can graduate from public college or trade school debt-free?

5b. Will you support well-funded, high quality, and universally accessible public schools for all children, regardless of geography, income, or background, by passing a new federal funding formula that incentivizes states to ensure adequate and equitable resources for every teacher and classroom, based on what they need?


RESTORATIVE JUSTICE

6a. Will you commit to a fair criminal justice system that aims to rehabilitate individuals, and eliminates disparities in enforcement, prosecution, and sentencing by 2025?

6b. Will you end harsh mandatory minimum sentences and excessive drug laws that bankrupt our legal system and keep non-violent offenders behind bars?

6c. Will you commit to ending unfair and ineffective policing practices such as cash bail and racial profiling?

6d. Will you support a ban on private prisons which profit from mass incarceration?

This must include:

- Establishment of a DOJ office to investigate police shootings;

- Federal incentives and policies against private prisons;

- Elimination of cash bail for most non-violent offenses;

- Federal support for provision of de-escalation and racism trainings for local law enforcement agencies;

- Federal incentives for hiring local police officers from inside a community;

- Support for community-based violence interruption programs, remediation, and other sentencing alternatives.


WELCOMING IMMIGRANTS

7a. America has always been a nation of immigrants. Will you reflect this value by welcoming refugees and immigrants, and supporting a short path to citizenship for DREAMers, aspiring citizens, and those escaping oppression and violence?

7b. Will you push measures to ensure that immigrants aren’t singled out by local or federal law enforcement, and protect people who are detained by immigration raids by passing a policy that guarantees access to legal counsel?

American immigration policy must include:

- The right to legally drive, the right to purchase insurance;

- The ability to attend primary public school, college and vocational schools and access to healthcare, regardless of immigration status;

- Ensuring that immigrants aren’t singled out by local or federal law enforcement, regardless of immigration status.


PROTECT ANND RESTORE THE ENVIRONMENT

8a. Will you lead an effort to to pass a law that commits the United States to 100% renewable energy by 2030?

8b. Will you launch an initiative that incentivizes use of renewable energy, and creation of clean-energy jobs and R&D in communities hard hit by pollution and declining legacy industries? This initiative should be funded in part with a tax penalty on polluters.

8c. Will you lead a U.S.-supported global plan to protect and restore our natural environment with annual reductions in climate change emissions to safe and sustainable levels ? [280/ppm by 2100]

8d. Will you hold polluters financially accountable for harms caused by their damage to our land, waterways and aquifers? This means holding polluters responsible for health costs, relocation costs, and the cost of rebuilding damaged ecosystems and infrastructure.

8e. Will you lead an effort to enact laws to reinstate protections for the land, sea and air that have been rescinded by the EPA since 2016?

8f. Will you lead an effort to rebuild and improve water delivery infrastructure in this country to keep drinking water affordable and safe for everyone?

A plan to protect our planet must include:

- R&D investments to transition our nation to a renewable future, prioritizing areas that face economic declines from a shift away from coal, gas, and oil, as well as communities that have suffered from dangerous pollution;

- Requiring replacement of carbon sinks such as trees and swamplands when displaced by development;

- Expanding legal protections to sustain biodiversity and mitigate the effects of climate change;

- New incentives for land use, development, and agriculture that restore our waterways and fisheries.


LGBTQI EQUAL RIGHTS

9. Will you lead a national effort to protect people of all gender identities and sexual orientations from discrimination, harassment, and violence, especially in the workplace, and when seeking housing and healthcare?


VOTER PROTECTION

10a. Will you lead an effort to pass a modern voting rights act that reduces barriers to voting and incentivizes states to adopt same-day and automatic voter registration, make poll sites and hours more convenient, and expand early and mail-in voting opportunities?

10b. Will you support efforts to restore the right to vote to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Americans?

10c. Will you commit to upgrading national election systems security, so that votes are human-verifiable, and that no one can hack our elections?

An update voting rights act must include:

- Incentivizing states to adopt same-day registration and automatic voter registration;

- Convenient access to poll sites and hours;

- Expanding early and mail-in voting opportunities

- Upgrading national election systems security, so that votes are human-verifiable--and unhackable.

-Restoring the right to vote to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated Americans


AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND ENDING HOMELESSNESS

11. Will you lead an effort to make housing more affordable for everyone, and commit to fighting for a housing system that makes sure that, by 2025, no one earning below 200% of the poverty line pays more than a third of their income for rent? This means setting targets for affordable housing development, increased rental subsidies, preferential loans, and tax incentives.

This must include:

- Preferential loans, tax incentives, and subsidies to ensure everyone can live in housing they can afford;

- Ending predatory lending and protecting against foreclosures;

- Expanded enforcement of fair housing protections;

- Strengthened renter protections, such as anti-displacement ordinances and just-cause eviction laws.

- Budget increases for HUD to close the waitlist for the 80 percent of eligible households not currently receiving assistance, while sustaining existing households;

- Maintaining housing assistance without minimum rents, time limits, work requirements or other measures that jeopardize housing and increase the burden on homeless services and other forms of public assistance;

- Eliminating barriers to accessing housing assistance, such as screening criteria that exclude non-violent offenders;

- Budget increases to programs already proven to promote employment and self-sufficiency for federal housing assistance recipients (such as the FSS, Jobs-Plus, and ROSS programs), instead of allowing public housing authorities to impose work requirements on a population that is either elderly or disabled or already working;


POLITICAL FAIRNESS

12a. If elected, will you commit to holding at least four town halls per year, in-person, in-the-district, and open to all, and with the majority of time for answering unmoderated, uncurated questions from the public?

12b. Will you support efforts to end partisan gerrymandering so that voters pick candidates, rather than candidates picking voters?

12c. Will you support laws that get money out of politics? Will you support only judicial nominations that would overturn Citizens United, if they had the chance?