November/December 1994

Holding Politicians Accountable

By Kim Bobo

The elections of 1994 demonstrated the power of constituent organizing (mostly done by the right wing), the dissatisfaction of many voters with the current work of elected officials, and the importance of participating in the electoral process. In very few races were housing issues even discussed, except in the general context of slashing government spending. Now in the aftermath of the elections, we see low-income housing under attack.

We can mourn the state of affairs, or we can use the elections as a wake-up call. We must make housing a political issue, and we can begin by holding our elected officials accountable. This is no easy task. It requires consistent vigilance and hard work. And yet,  if we want a more just society in which everyone is adequately housed, we must hold them accountable.

Fundamentally, elected officials care about one thing: votes. The keys to votes – and to the power needed to hold elected officials accountable – are people and money. Housing activists need to learn how to use these keys to influence elected officials. Use this four-step process to analyze your potential to hold your elected officials accountable and visibly demonstrate your organization's power.

1. Analyze Elected Officials

2. Analyze Your Supporters and Potential Supporters. 3. Make a Plan. 4. Demonstrate Your Power. It is not enough to have the people and campaign contributors on your side, you must visibly demonstrate that power. A few tried and true tactics for demonstrating your power include:

Kim Bobo is a trainer with the Midwest Academy, a national training center for organizers and activists. The Midwest Academy works with city- and state-wide housing coalitions to develop grassroots organizing campaigns.

Back to November/December 1994 index.