With candidates like Elizabeth Warren snapping up talent and building capacity fast, the Democratic race for president is now well underway. Except for a handful of media stars like Warren, Biden, Beto or Sanders, the biggest problem for most potential candidates is simply to get noticed. Early trips to Iowa and New Hampshire help, but those states will be swarmed (and their airwaves filled) by a couple of dozen soon-to-be also-rans as they struggle for attention. In Campaigns & Elections, I recently looked at one answer to the problem: self-organizing.
How can Democratic candidates connect with enough voters to survive the initial winnowing of the field? One option: let the voters do the work for them, by harnessing the power of self-organizing. Democrats are primed for it, too, since over the last few years, millions of individual activists have taken responsibility for creating the change they want to see in the world. The trend dates back at least as far back as Obama’s first campaign and the Tea Party response, but it’s truly bloomed since Trump’s election two years ago.
Think of the Parkland students crossing the country to work for gun control, or the thousands of Indivisible chapters that have sprung up spontaneously in all fifty states, or the Democratic women organizing in secret in deep Red America. The right gets in on the action sometimes, as in that recent border-wall crowdfunding campaign, but the real passion has been on the Democrats’ side since 2016. If I were running for president, one of my first priorities would be to create a system to harness it.
The rest of the C&E piece explores what a self-organizing focus would look like in practice, plus the potential role of targeted digital advertising in building critical mass. Check it out, spread the word, and look for more on this idea soon.