Quaker political activists highlight the importance of an informed and active electorate

A Quaker group is quietly making its mark on modern presidential politics by sending representatives to campaign events to ask carefully planned and probing questions that candidates seldom face from friendly rally-goers and mainstream reporters.

That’s according to a fascinating profile published this week in The Intercept, which takes a closer look at how the American Friends Service Committee is working to force encourage candidates to answer tough questions on crony capitalism, the military industrial complex and immigration.

From the piece:

For all the talk about this election revolving around national security and government spending, the AFSC group is among a select few dedicated to asking candidates about President Barack Obama’s planned $1 trillion nuclear arms program, bloated military programs such as the Pentagon’s F-35, and how to diminish the influence of lobbying by military contractors. Activists trained with the group have also asked about fracking, ethanol subsidies, and other issues they say are clouded by the pervasive role of money in politics.

Sometimes the benefit is getting the candidate on record. Other times … there is an educational component, because the candidates are forced to think about policy matters that are all too often ignored on the trail.

A representative from the group said that its members have been given the opportunity to ask more than 250 questions this election season, hitting most of the top candidates. Each of the interactions is outlined in a blog of “Bird Dog Reports” published on the AFSC’s Governing Under the Influence website.

While you may not care about all of the issues the group focuses on, there’s still no denying that they’re dedicated to digging for straight answers on tough topics. And that’s refreshing in an era when nationally-respected journalists are too often reduced to asking political elites like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush softball questions about their favorite breakfast cereals and pop songs.

The Quakers’ historical tendency toward “natural capitalism” and a fierce love for freedom of religion and speech have had a huge impact on the nation since its founding. Today, their political activism should be recognized as an example for other groups and individuals who feel powerless to influence electoral politics dominated by big government and media interests.


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