If We Underinvest in Local Elections, We Repeat our Same Mistakes

8 mins read
Big Decisions Happen in Local Politics
Graphic from Run for Something.

Earlier this fall, I had a conversation that’s kept me up nearly every night since: A supporter told me that while they loved Run for Something, they simply couldn’t make us a priority going into 2020. “We have to beat Trump,” they said. “Everything else is on hold.”

Let’s be clear: That mentality — that winning the White House is the only thing that matters — is exactly why Democrats lose over and over and over again.

It’s why too many people don’t have health care, why abortion rights are on the line, why voters are suppressed, and why so many have a negative perception of the Democratic Party, even while our positions and policies are more popular & would make peoples’ lives better.

Winning the White House is important. But if we underinvest in local elections, we repeat our same mistakes. As a party, we have to do it all. (The other side does. After all, the GOP has the resources and strategic imperative to invest everywhere & at every level.)

But I hear you that you may have specific goals for your 2020 political involvement. So let me explain: No matter what you care about, Run For Something is absolutely part of the solution.

If you care about winning the White House: Local candidates generate turn-out & reach voters (especially in underrepresented communities) that a presidential candidate simply can’t or won’t allocate resources towards….

For example, municipal candidates in cities like Atlanta, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Philadelphia can run up the score in key states for a Democratic candidate at the top of the ticket. (At a much lower cost, too.)

If you care about winning the Senate: Our candidates in states like ME, MT, AZ, GA, IA, AL, KS, & NC are going to need every last vote to win hard races. It might not make sense for the presidential campaign to invest heavily in the way Senate candidates need.

But it absolutely makes sense for school board, city council & state leg candidates in those places to run competitive races and gin up Democratic turnout in every proverbial nook & cranny. Even if the local candidate themselves loses, those votes for Democrats still count!

If you care about redistricting: We are fielding candidates for state legislature! Our candidates are often running in long-shot races that others dismiss as too hard to engage in — but that’s where we can win unexpected flips with the historic turnout we expect in 2020.

If you care about health care: Let’s be real — even if we win the White House AND win the Senate, it’s going to take a good long while to pass health care reform. Meanwhile, Democratic state legislatures are expanding Medicaid to literally save lives TODAY.

If you care about abortion rights: State legislatures are the ones who protect a woman’s right to choose, or who take it away. And: The best way to prevent Roe v Wade from going in front of Trump’s judges is to prevent the bad laws from being passed in the first place.

If you care about voting rights: State legislatures pass these laws, too. Plus: The most efficient way to turn a state like Texas or Wisconsin blue: Elect Democratic state legislatures who can make it easier for communities of color and young people to vote.

If you care about climate change: Democratic city councils are switching cities over to solar and wind energy. Democratic state legislatures like New York and California have been essentially competing to pass the most ambitious carbon reduction bills.

If you care about diversity in government: One way to ensure we have fewer white men as presidential candidates in the future is to get more non-white men into the pipeline by electing them as local leaders. It’ll yield better policies immediately & build us a better bench.

If you care about the Democratic party brand — among both Trump voters & non-voters who might vote our way if they show up: Our presidential candidate is going to be demonized on Fox News, in Sinclair media broadcasts, & in hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising.

But it’s harder to hate the Democrat on the school board that you know & who is delivering better education for your kids. It’s harder to dismiss the Democrat on the city council who’s from the neighborhood, gets your problems, & makes sure the city is running smoothly.

Run For Something was created to solve a singular need — that young people considering running for office had no where to turn to for help. But that hole in the progressive ecosystem existed because of a broader problem in our party’s resource allocation.

In 2019, we raised ~$2.5 million. We need to raise at least that and then some in 2020 in order to ensure we’re sustainable past this election cycle. (After all, we already have candidates running in 2021. Hard to believe, but there will be an election day past November!)

The earlier you can make your donation, the better. If you want to host an event, just email us at hello@runforsomething.net. We will go anywhere and everywhere to help you help us.

Our baby budget is nothing in the grand scheme of things. But it’s everything to us, to our candidates, and to the millions of people counting on better health care, cleaner water, easier access to the polls, and more.

Finally, thank you. 300+ elected officials, 45,000+ people inspired to consider running for office, a changed understanding of who can & should lead our govt — that’s because of you. Your generosity of money, time, or even just a spot on your timeline means the world to us.

Originally posted on Twitter. Re-posted with permission.

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

Co-Founder and Executive Director, Run for Something. Hillary Clinton’s email director. (The other emails.) Responsible for raising more than $330 million online. Charlie Crist’s digital director when he ran for governor in 2014. One of the first employees at Organizing for Action as deputy email director. Email writer for Barack Obama’s re-elect. Northwestern University graduate. Bookworm. Feminist. Nationals fan. Dog owner.

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