The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee met this week to draft the 2020 Delegate Selection rules and continue the party reform efforts, but in the meantime, the party organizing efforts continue full steam. Here’s an update from Amanda Brown Lierman, DNC Political and Organizing Director:
By now you’ve probably heard about the “new DNC” — and I’d like to make one thing clear: This is more than a branding exercise. It is a completely new organizing principle — one designed to win elections — that was launched by Tom Perez and Keith Ellison when they were elected to lead the DNC last year.
Our organization is quickly changing. We no longer live cycle-to-cycle, and there’s no such thing as an “off year.” For too long, the DNC has been largely focused on being involved in elections only every four years.
But the reality is that there is a chance to win an election almost every Tuesday from now through November — whether it is a local school board contest, a city supervisor or mayor’s race, a state legislature or governor’s campaign, or a special election to fill an open seat in Congress. There are elections in every ZIP code and at all levels, and Democrats are competing everywhere, every year.
Basically, “If it’s Tuesday, it’s Election Day.”
At the new DNC, we are targeting races and organizing communities in literally hundreds of municipalities, counties, and states across the country. And the key word here is “organizing.” It is not a coincidence that my title is Political and Organizing Director, or that we are looking for staff with organizing backgrounds, or that we are currently hiring dozens of experienced organizers.
As we look to become more engaged locally, we’re identifying individuals who can organize communities — people who know how to knock on doors and make phone calls — to create a stronger and more permanent infrastructure. Our commitment is to find people who are already plugged in at the local level, who will listen to local concerns, and who will foster long-term authentic relationships. We will then work with and through them to organize in those communities.
In order to implement this plan, we’ve come up with the following four-program approach to transform the Democratic Party state by state.
EVERY ZIP CODE COUNTS
We are organizing and competing everywhere to win elections in 2018, 2019, and beyond — 365 days a year. Our plan is an “Every ZIP Code Counts” strategy. To do that, we are engaging and supporting state parties — providing them with additional resources to help them grow and to make sure they have the ability to hire experienced and talented staff.
Starting in October 2017 and through the Every ZIP Code Counts program, the DNC increased its monthly investment to $10,000 to every state party in the nation. This is a 33% increase over the base funding levels from 2016 and a 100% increase over 2015.
Recognizing that not all states are the same — what Alabama needs may be quite different from what Arizona or Alaska needs — my team has been on the ground in every state doing an analysis of each state party to determine what each state needs to win elections. We’ve met with party staff, partner organizations, and key allies to get a comprehensive understanding. And we’re reviewing with the state parties what is currently working and what could be working better to help win local, statewide, and national elections.
We are partnering with our state parties to help create state-specific work plans with metrics, and we are making sure that states use their funding to strengthen their infrastructure and their overall effectiveness. The strategic plans include recommendations like hiring a communications director or requirements like voter file audits or cybersecurity precautions. They also include programmatic recommendations, such as strengthening candidate recruitment efforts or building community engagement capabilities.
In addition, we have launched a new program called the State Party Innovation Fund — the first of its kind — where competitive grants are awarded to state parties who put forth innovative ideas for engaging voters. These grants incentivize early organizing and supports efforts to engage African American, Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, millennial, and rural communities from now until Election Day.
WINNING WITH PARTNERS
The DNC knows we can’t win elections by doing all this work alone. Our party is part of a larger, multi-issue, progressive movement where we each have a role to play, and there are a number of organizations out there with different strengths and focuses. So, our greatest value-add as a partner is the role of convener.
To advance this strategy, DNC Deputy Chair Keith Ellison launched the Winning With Partners in 2018 program and has held a series of on-the-ground town hall meetings in states across the country. We are working with the newer groups, as well as working with traditional Democratic organizations that have been part of our progressive coalition for decades. Keith has already been to more than a dozen states and he has several more lined up this spring.
By pulling together state party leaders, community activists, and organizations new and old — and listening to those grassroots leaders — we discover common goals and agendas. Through this program, we are learning to share our resources to help one another win elections.
Winning With Partners in 2018 is part of our community engagement initiative and it is an example of the relationship building that is a priority of the new DNC. The idea is to really listen to community leaders and activists so that we are a partner in helping mobilize them before the November 2018 elections.
THE IWILLVOTE CAMPAIGN
The DNC is committed to making every voice heard because we know when we get more people to vote, Democrats win! That’s why we recently launched IWillVote.
We have an ambitious plan to reach 50 million Americans between now and Election Day to encourage them to vote for Democrats in 2018. The four components of this program will be: 1) getting our community to commit to vote, 2) ensuring they are registered to vote, 3) providing voter education and protection, and 4) running a get out the vote campaign.
Over the next six months, we hope that people across the country will visit IWillVote.com to learn how to register to vote, find out where their polling place is, and gather all the logistical information they need for Election Day. We will also be on the ground talking to voters throughout the year.
BEST PRACTICES INSTITUTE
The new DNC will be a hub for learning and innovation where we creatively employ new technology, best practices, centralized training, and toolkits for state parties and individual candidates to use in every election.
We’re not looking for cookie-cutter approaches, and we know each state is different. But sharing useful information and providing universal learnings can help all states to grow their base of support and become more effective.
The DNC is helping state parties and candidates with these trainings — such as how to use digital tools for both fundraising and the development of stronger communities. Or which doors to knock on and which issues are motivating community activists. And increasingly, how local issues — conversations about improving schools and personal safety — can be just as compelling as the national issues we hear about every day.
Through the Best Practices Institute, we are investing in innovative solutions while focusing on the proven best practices that will help develop a permanent infrastructure that we will need to continue our progress in 2019, 2020, and beyond.
Time is critical. With fewer than six months until the November midterm elections, we have a lot of work to do. Our success will come through the four programs outlined above: 1) Every ZIP Code Counts; 2) Winning With Partners in 2018; 3) the IWillVote campaign; and 4) the Best Practices Institute.
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to the Democratic Party. You’ve donated to elect Democrats this year, and we are incredibly grateful to have you on this team. With your continued support, I am confident the DNC will help Democrats win up and down the ticket, reverse the dangerous policies of the Trump administration, and fight for the principles and values of our party.