Welcome to the big Sunday edition of Progressives Everywhere!
First, some cool news: Because Progressives Everywhere has raised $1.6 million for bail funds and Black-led community groups, I’ve been invited to participate in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session (basically a Q&A) about social justice and online activism this week. If the Reddit thing gives you pause, fear not — everyone from movie stars to powerful world leaders have participated in AMAs, including President Obama himself. My AMA will take place at 2 PM EST on Wednesday at the site’s Black Twitter People page — please come and check it out!
Speaking of online activism…
The 2016 election was arguably the worst self-inflicted shotgun blast to the face in United States history, but if there was one silver lining, it’s that it served as a much-needed wakeup call and galvanizing event for Democrats and progressives across the country.
We now understand the value of contesting every single election, up and down the ballot, and that local and state governments are where so many of the important policies that shape our lives are made — a reality driven home by the psychotic decisions made by many Republican governors and their legislatures during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (you can still eat indoors at restaurants in Texas and Florida, FYI).
Progressives Everywhere is just one of the many organizations focused on winning races at all levels of government, and the more the merrier, given how much ground there is to cover. Each group has its different interests and angles, and one of the newer organizations, Where It’s Needed (WIN), is focused on exactly what the name suggests — WIN pinpoints races where a little money can make a big difference and put Democrats over the finish line.
WIN is the brainchild of Doug Foote, a veteran Democratic organizer and campaign strategist who has worked for leaders like New York’s Jumaane Williams and Reps. Tim Ryan and Andy Kim. He’s seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of Democratic campaigns, which are so often run by consultants who like to blast grassroots dollars at other consultants who run campaigns like fast food kitchen assembly lines.
“So much of the money raised goes towards TV ads and a lot of these TV ads are designed to persuade moderate voters and are written in response to focus groups,” he says. “And so very often the ads come off as inauthentic and kind of milquetoast and vague to the point where, if you just asked someone what is a political ad is like, you’d get a similar response no matter where they are.”
Instead of financing big ad buys with overly broad target audiences and hollow messages, WIN takes a strategic approach informed by both data and Foote’s vast network of relationships across progressive organizations, community groups, and party officials. He’s got a broad spreadsheet of targeted races where money won’t just impact one outcome, but will create a sort of reverse down-ballot effect, where funding and empowering activists on a local level will help get out of the vote for higher office races, as well.
One campaign in Pennsylvania provides a perfect example of his ideal targets.
“Brittney Rodas is running for State Rep in a Harrisburg area district in Pennsylvania, District 105. It is also inside State Senate District 15, which is also flippable,” he explains. “It's also inside Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District which is also a flippable district, and it’s all of course in Pennsylvania, which is a must-win state if Democrats are going to win the White House.”
Right now, WIN is harnessing much of its fundraising power on behalf of Black candidates running for flippable districts in crucial, flippable state legislatures. The list includes Progressives Everywhere endorsee Akilah Bacy, who is poised to win the runoff for the Democratic nomination for her Houston-area district, which was decided by just 39 votes in 2018. The other excellent candidates are in North Carolina, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. You can check out the list here.
And in other news…
Here are some of the big headlines you may have missed over the weekend. Lots going on!
If you want the most crucial down-ballot and progressive activist news directly in your inbox every night of the week, you can subscribe to the premium edition of the newsletter! Here’s an example from last week.
And now to the news…
You probably didn’t miss this one, but just in case, it seems as if Trump was told months ago that Russians are bribing Taliban fighters to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. His response? Fighting to get Russia invited to rejoin the G-7.
Trump tweeted on Sunday that he had no idea about the Russian scheme to murder Americans, which is probably a lie — and if it isn’t, it means that either his advisers thought better than to tell him or that he is so bad at paying attention to anything other than Fox News that he wasn’t even listening when military officials briefed him on it.
On Friday evening, the Supreme Court — or, Samuel Alito — declined a request from the Texas Democratic Party to temporarily permit universal vote-by-mail. As we’ve been covering, the state Democratic Party filed a lawsuit over Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s ban on using coronavirus as an excuse to request an absentee ballot; the case is making its way through the court system, ping-ponging based on judicial ideology.
The state’s primaries will operate under the normal, restrictive rules, which only allow someone to apply for an absentee ballot if they’re 65 or older, sick or disabled, or can prove they will be out of town on election day. Good stuff as coronavirus rates skyrocket in Texas!
Some ballot initiative news:
In Idaho, activists had been on track to get the signatures required to qualify a ballot initiative that would increase education funding and pay for it with a wealth tax. Coronavirus put a halt to their signature-gathering, and last week, a judge ruled that the state had to either go ahead and put the initiative on the ballot straight away or give Reclaim Idaho, the activist group, both extra time and the ability to gather signatures online. In response, the Republicans that run Idaho are…. just doing neither. So, that’s gonna get messy.
Unresponsive government is a bipartisan issue. Out in Nevada, Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak is ignoring requests by Fair Maps Nevada, an organization pushing an anti-gerrymandering amendment, to allow them to use the state’s online voter registration system to collect signatures. This despite a judge’s ruling that Sisolak had the authority to do so. The government did grant an extension to gather signatures, but with coronavirus rates rising in the state, doing so in person is extremely risky.
Speaking of coronavirus rates…
Read this column by Wisconsin State Assemblywoman Greta Neubauer, who writes about being a queer lawmaker and the responsibilities — and opportunities — that come with it.
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