Of all the questions posed to presidential candidates, only 5% are about human rights.
That’s according to a report recently released by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. But of that 5%, Darfur was an issue that was repeatedly addressed. In fact 23% of the human rights questions posed to Democrats were about Darfur, ( only 0.7% of those posed to Republicans)
So why does Darfur get all the attention?
Because its coming from the electorate, according to Gayle Smith, co-founder of ENOUGH!. “I’ve worked in Africa for many years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Coby Rudolph, National Outreach Coordinator for the Save Darfur Coalition said they’ve approached the presidential campaign with several goals:
- Inject Darfur into the dialogue in the presidential campaign. Opportunities for this came from debate, forums and the media. For example in Iowa, Save Darfur hired a full time organizer to engage political reporters, mobilize activists to ask specific questions about Darfur, and on caucus night, people across the state of Iowa took platform planks into the caucuses to get Darfur into the party platforms.
- Influence the specific policy positions and priorities of the candidates. Save Darfur came at this with the reality that one of these people will be the next president of the United States. So they have already begun targeting the candidates on what their policies toward Darfur will be. One media example of this would be a billboard ad in the New Hampshire airport. When candidates got off their planes, they saw a billboard with a photograph of a young refugee girl. The text read, “You’re running for president. She is running for her life.” Save Darfur also took out full page ads in several newspapers (especially in Iowa and NH) with signatures of activists and those concerned about Darfur. Signatories included congressman Bruce Braley, religious leaders, and other grasstops.
- Inform voters on candidates’ positions. Save Darfur activists have tracked candidates’ statements on Darfur and posted them on their website. They also invited each candidate to post a short video with their statements on Darfur. Those who have not submitted a video have a link next to their name where site visitors can ask them for their views on Darfur.
- Mobilize local activists. The presidential campaign has proven to be a great way to engage activists and volunteers, because they can break things up into manageable goals. Rather than try to solve all the problems of Darfur, volunteers and activists can focus on tangible results, such as reaching specific candidates, influencing campaigns, getting certain questions asked in debates, etc.
- Demonstrate a constituency of conscience.
- Influence the current administration and congress. Save Darfur has not forgotten that things can be done now, before the next president is sworn in.
So how about you- what human rights issue do you care about?
Is it being addressed by the candidates?
Do you know how the candidates feel about that issue?
Have you talked about it with people you know?