I’ve maxed out to one of our terrific presidential candidates but first let me tell you my 2020 investment strategy.
The GOAL we all share, of course, is to restore sanity to the White House, confiscate McConnell’s gavel, and flip state legislative chambers and governorships in advance of the redistricting that will flow from the 2020 census.
The most powerful way to do THAT, I will argue below, is NOT by supporting individual candidates next year but by investing in a massive program of early organizing and registration NOW.
With that in mind, I was beseeching a friend to save our democracy and quite possibly the species.*
“What exactly are you looking for?” he asked, seeming to have bought into my premise.
“Half of one percent of your net worth.”
“I’ve already done that,” he said.
“Really?” I was caught off guard. “That’s great! To the DNC? Where?”
“I just gave $50,000 to Kamala Harris in various ways.”
Long pause as I wondered HOW he had done that (the basic limit is $2,800 for the primary) . . . but decided not to lose focus by asking.
“Oh, Ellen,” I said instead (not his real name, clearly). “Kamala is terrific, but you just gave $50,000 to beat other DEMOCRATS and nothing – ZERO! — to beat Trump. So I still need $50,000.”
Ellen sounded a little crestfallen. It was hard for him to disagree.
“Be LOGICAL, I implored. We really need to win.”
“I know we need to win. Call me next year. I’m tapped out.”
Barack Obama’s life advice for his daughters, growing up, was: “Be kind and be useful.” Pretty much says it all, no?
For 2020, we need a similar summation: “Be logical and be generous.”
Invest to defeat Republicans, not Democrats. If there’s one primary candidate you absolutely love, okay — give her or him 5% of your overall 2020-cycle budget. But no more! Invest either 100% or, at minimum, 95% of your budget in early organizing and registration.
Do it now. Money contributed to hire organizers now is SO much more impactful than the exact same amount given next year.
Hired NOW, organizers have that much longer to recruit and train volunteers . . . who in turn have that much longer to inspire MORE volunteers . . . all of whom will have that much longer to register new voters and organize their neighborhoods. Trump is shooting for 1.6 million volunteers. How many should we shoot for? How will we get them without starting early, and in a big way?
It’s also more powerful to give now because so few do – most are busy giving to Democrats fighting other Democrats. They’re not thinking logically. They’re not thinking ahead.
Give little or nothing to individual candidates. That’s hard, especially when you know them; but here’s why:
Candidates spend a ton on advertising; yet elections these days, I think, are mainly about turn-out, not persuasion. Great TV ads are not going to persuade people to register to vote. Or to turn OUT to vote. Let alone to switch tribes.
Candidates can’t abandon advertising; but I see little risk they will UNDER-spend on TV (often, the TV buy is how their consultants make money) and zero risk that most Democrats follow this strategy. Billions will go to individual candidates next year. And that’s great.
But the smart money, it seems to me, goes into the ground game: organizing for massive registration and turn-out of folks who will surely vote our way IF THEY VOTE.
Funding a massive turn-out is so much more efficient than funding hundreds of specific races. If we get our folks to the polls, they typically vote for ALL our candidates – even when they know nothing about them, just that they’re Democrats.
Many of our voters, working two jobs to make ends meet, may not know Ohio HAS a secretary of state, let alone the names f the candidates. But they know what team they’re on. They know they want Democrats to win.
Thanks in part to many of you, we took back the House last year. Can you imagine if we hadn’t?
Now, we get to write history again – with an outcome that is entirely uncertain.
I think we’ll beat Trump/Putin. (What? You don’t think Putin is enjoying himself as he watches America’s world leadership evaporate? You think he won’t keep attacking?)
If our turn-out is high enough we can also take back the Senate and flip state legislative chambers that we haven’t held in a long time.
But we’d better do it now, because I don’t think we get a second chance at this. Trump is – literally – a sociopath and a fascist. (No? Which of these 14 criteria, enumerated in 2003, does he fail to fulfill?) Can what is left of our norms and our institutions survive four more years?
With THAT in mind, I ask people – as you know – to give big. Dip into capital.
I made this pitch over a few weeks to a charismatic woman whose name you might know — so I’ll call her Jack – who is renting a summer place for $17,500 a week.
“I’m with you,” Jack said more than once. She is fun, she is beautiful, she has more energy than I ever will – and I was looking for six figures.
“I’m in,” she said a week or two later, “but it won’t be as much as I know you’re hoping for.” Hey, I thought; if every “no” came with $25,000, well . . . $100,000 or $250,000 might have been more appropriate to the moment, but we’ll be truly grateful for whatever number she decides is right.
She decided on $1,000.
And I’m grateful. But my hope, of course, is that something she sees on the news or social media will cause her to join the fight at a scale commensurate with her resources.
Another wonderful, millionaire friend got defensive when I noted that over the last 10 years she’d given “only” $20,000 in federal contributions – $10,400 of it to a senate candidate in a safe state. Given her resources, it was neither logical nor generous.
If these last 10 years – and THIS year – are not times to join the political struggle in a logical, generous way, when is?
In my own case, I’ve maxed out to Mayor Pete and decided not to replace my pool. The pool got swept away at high tide under a full moon last December. (I blame Trump.) The contractor’s bid to replace it is $331,000.
It’s a Sophie’s choice. I love hosting water volleyball in that pool on sunny summer days. It’s a big thing for my friends and me. But so is saving mankind. So what to DO????
. . . forgo what works out to about 50 glorious hours of water volleyball each summer?
. . . or help to hire thousands of organizers to recruit and train hundreds of thousands of volunteers to – we hope – save the country and perhaps the species*?
What to do?
What to do?
I maxed out to Pete in January because (a) I trust his judgement and his intellect and feel sure he’d restore dignity, integrity, empathy, and vision to the White House; (b) I think the asymmetry debating Trump would be devastating; (c) the mere fact of his candidacy is a huge win, opening hearts and minds to the cause of equal rights.
That said, I’ll be 110% behind Joe, if he gets it, or Kamala or Elizabeth or Amy – or Bennett or Bullock or Bernie or whomever — because all that REALLY matters is that we win.
Which is why 95% of my political giving since January has gone to fund 1,000 rising college seniors in 7 key states that the DNC is hiring and training to register and organize voters on campus and in their low-income home neighborhoods.
But why just 1,000? With your help, it could be 2,000. I think it should be 5,000.
If enough of us are logical and generous – click here, please – this story will have a happy ending.
And pass this on to YOUR list, if you think it makes sense to do so.
*We have just 10 or 20 years AS A SPECIES to get on a sustainable trajectory, it seems to me. There were 2.5 billion passengers on this little spaceship when I was born, 7.6 billion now, a few short years later – and technology races ahead exponentially. After 200,000 years since it occurred to humans to stand erect – during the first 199,900 of which nothing we did could jeopardize the habitability of the planet – it comes down to the next few years to get this right. No easy challenge even with the most thoughtful of leaders . . . but doomed to failure, it seems to me, if it falls to Trump, McConnell, Devon Nunez and Sean Hannity to see us through.