Democrats to Make a Down Payment on Digital Persuasion — But Just a Down Payment

Money in politics

Responding to criticism that they’ve ceded the field to Trump in battleground states while potential presidential nominees fight it out, Democratic groups went to Politico’s Maggie Severn this weekend to argue that they aren’t simply sitting on their hands:

Democratic super PACs are set to soon launch a yearlong $150 million advertising onslaught countering the millions the president’s campaign has already spent targeting voters. On top of that, billionaire Tom Steyer is funding other groups testing a range of strategies to register and turn out people to vote. And the Democratic National Committee this week began training hundreds of college students to work as field staff in battleground states, an effort that will continue throughout the campaign.

The article goes on to detail a range of digital and traditional advertising plans from American Bridge and PrioritiesUSA to run in the year between now and the Democratic convention. It also highlights field organizing and voter turnout work funded by wealthy climate activist Tom Steyer and the Democratic Party itself.

Useful, but most of this isn’t exactly new: the DNC has been fundraising around the creation of its 1000-person Organizing Corps for months, and PrioritiesUSA’s advertising campaign has been known for weeks at least. To me, the article itself implies more of an effort to satisfy critics than new thinking sparked by the legitimate concerns of people like Ben LaBolt and, well, me.

A serious persuasion effort would need more than a few tens of millions of dollars spread among TV, radio and digital channels. A serious grassroots effort would involve the actual grassroots and a real attempt to mobilize them en masse, not just a thousand field organizers, useful though their work will be. For reference, Trump’s campaign is talking about mobilizing 1.5 million volunteers, whom they’re already identifying via data from rallies and other sources.

Most of all, a serious persuasion campaign can’t just stop next summer: if we want to break through the Fox/Limbaugh bubble, Democrats need to think in terms of years, not months. All of the work described in Politico will serve our candidates and our agenda well, but it’s just a down payment. The real work to persuade enough voters to give Democrats a chance outside of our urban/suburban bastions will likely last a decade — at least.


Written by
Colin Delany
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