Bird-Dog Nation hosts training at Iowa City Public Library

Bird-Dog Nation heads to the Iowa City Public Library to train community members of Iowa City how to bird-dog. Bird-dogging involves asking a specific question to a candidate in order to get a significant answer regarding important issues.


Alyson Kuennen

Junior fiction novels rest on shelves at the Iowa City Public Library in Iowa City on Tuesday, February 5, 2019.

Annie Fitzpatrick, News Reporter

An Iowa City person approaches the podium to ask a candidate whether the politician will find a way to make health care more affordable so he or she can afford the medicine for her son’s rare disease. This is an example of bird-dogging, a type of questioning that requires candidates to answer how they will address specific situations affecting constituents.

Bird-Dog Nation and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement will host bird-dog training at the Iowa City Public Library from 6-8 p.m. Feb. 19.

The training provides Iowa City community members with opportunity to learn how to effectively question political candidates in order to get meaningful answers.

Matthew Covington, an organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, said this is the first bird-dog training taking place in Iowa City, and that it is important for community members to learn how to effectively question political candidates, especially because of the significance of the Iowa caucuses.

“With Iowa being one of the first in the nation, candidates are coming here all the time, and so folks are just looking for the skills on how to share an effective personal story in a short amount of time and how to structure questions of people seeking higher office in a way that actually gets a substantive answer rather than the surface responses,” he said.

Covington said Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has had experience with bird-dogging in past political election years. He said when former presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited the Iowa State Fair in 2011, members of Covington’s organization bird-dogged Romney about questions related to Medicare and the pricing of health care.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and 100 Grannies member Pat Bowen said she will attend the Feb. 19 training to learn more about questioning political candidates that will get real responses.

“It’s not something a person can learn overnight and just one time,” Bowen said. “So I’m hoping to get some skill sets on how to ask the right kind of question and just how to phrase it so that you don’t give the answer to the candidate as you’re asking the questions.”

Bowen said that this event, and political activism as a whole, is important to democracy and making a difference for future generations.

“Democracy doesn’t end at the voting booth. We have to keep fighting for our democracy every single day,” she said. “We cannot just sit back and wait for the next election. It’s important to keep those who did get elected, whether they were people we voted for or not, we have to hold them accountable.”

At the training, Covington said participants will learn how to ask specific questions to candidates in a structured and organized manner.

“It’s about tracking them, sharing a personal story, and asking them a very specific question of what they would do if elected on that issue that is important to you and doing it in a way that doesn’t let them give us a sort of ‘stock’ answer,” he said.

UI senior Lydia Sinclair said that while she is not currently politically active, she sees the event as an opportunity to learn more about having one’s voice heard by elected officials.

“We can’t just sit back — democracy is a participatory sport … democracy is activism,” she said. “To me, they go hand-in-hand. You can’t just vote; you have to make democracy work every day.”

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