Mike Carlson questions Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) at a town hall forum in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on February 9.
Inside the contentious Obamacare town halls
02:13 - Source: CNN

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Another webinar is set for Thursday night

The organization plans to train thousands

Washington CNN  — 

Target your local lawmakers. Tell them personal stories about how the Affordable Care Act affects you and your family. Take videos. Be sure not to curse or become violent.

And mimic some of the tea party’s tactics: Stay local and organize around the goal of thwarting President Donald Trump.

That’s what Organizing for Action – the group that evolved from President Barack Obama’s political campaign structure – is teaching 25,000 liberal activists in a series of six webinars and calls ahead of next week’s congressional recess. Another webinar is set for Thursday night, where the organization plans to train thousands more.

Progressives see the recess as their best opportunity to capitalize on the surging energy in the Democratic base and convince Republicans to break from Trump and back away from their pledge to repeal Obama’s health care law.

Some Republicans – including Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and White House press secretary Sean Spicer – have cast the massive turnout at recent town halls one reliant on out-of-state, professional activists. But those activist organizations are telling their members to take just the opposite approach.

“If you’re not a member of Congress’s constituent, they don’t actually care what you think,” Matt Traldi, one of the five co-founders of Indivisible, said during a recent Organizing for Action webinar.

Traldi and Angel Padilla, a former congressional staffer and another Indivisible co-founder, urged those listening – many of them newly engaged in politics and preparing to attend their first town halls – to arrive with direct asks for their lawmakers.

“How to ask a solid question – something like, can you guarantee that no one through your vote will lose coverage?” Padilla said.

The goal, Traldi said, is to show that members of Congress are “out of touch with the rest of our congressional district – you can tell by the way they’re acting.”

“If there’s no recording, if there’s no pictures, if there’s nothing in the press, then it’s almost like it didn’t happen from the perspective of everybody who wasn’t there at the time,” Traldi said.

As Congress heads into its week-long break, progressive groups are scrambling to push their members toward town halls and events in their districts.

MoveOn.org has launched a website – ResistanceRecess.com – that’s serving as a hub for events, from congressional town halls (based on former Hillary Clinton field organizer Jimmy Dahman’s TownHallProject.com) to events organized by local chapters of the Indivisible movement.

“The most important thing is for people to come equipped with a knowledge of how this stuff affects their lives,” said Mike Wikler, MoveOn.org’s Washington director.

“Telling your own story – yourself, your family member, what it would mean for your mother, your grandmother, if Medicaid support for nursing homes were cut off – giving people the confidence to go and be authentic about speaking the truth,” he said.

Get it on camera

And there’s one more important component MoveOn is telling its members via emails and texts, he said: capture it all on Facebook Live.

Wikler said the idea is to send Republicans from an uncertain posture on how they’ll repeal and replace Obamacare “into full-blown retreat.”

The liberal blog DailyKos.com is directing members to the site, Wikler said. And MoveOn is working with Protect Our Care, a coalition of pro-Obamacare groups that is directing doctors, nurses, patients and others affected by the Affordable Care Act to events to speak to their personal experiences.

Other left-leaning groups are similarly trying to halt Republican actions.

Planned Parenthood is planning a major push across the country during the congressional recess – aiming to mobilize the 139,000 people who have signed up as volunteers since the election.

The organization – currently fighting Trump and congressional Republicans who are seeking to block it from receiving government funds because some of its local offices provide abortions – has scheduled 300 events through February, mostly concentrating on the week when lawmakers will be in their home districts.

After the election, it launched a “Planned Parenthood Defenders” digital tool to train its most committed volunteers, with more than 50,000 people signed up so far, 2,300 of whom have committed to hosting a meet-up for local activists and set a time and date. Already, 330 groups have met.

“A lot of folks that are really pissed off that this administration and Republican extremists are targeting Planned Parenthood,” said Kelley Robinson, Planned Parenthood’s deputy national organizing director.

Supporting the organization, she said, “also means standing with all the communities they serve – that means standing with immigrants, standing with refugees, standing with LGBT people.”

Planned Parenthood is also scheduling several of its own events targeting Republicans who did not schedule town halls during the break.

In Nevada, Planned Parenthood has organized an “empty chair” town hall where it invited Republican Sen. Dean Heller, a Democratic target in the 2018 midterms.

On February 25, Planned Parenthood is planning a rally in Milwaukee – where patients from House Speaker Paul Ryan’s district will be featured.

“What our task is to do over recess,” Robinson said, “is to really give these folks a megaphone – making clear that there is a price to pay for what they do to women’s health care.”

CNN’s MJ Lee contributed to this report.