In the aftermath of the presidential election, many of us are asking, “What do we do now?”
There is a way forward, a way to fix our broken political process and make all people feel less alienated from their government. There is a way to elect people who will serve the people, not just donors and lobbyists, and who will protect our rights and respect our civic institutions.
We can’t do it by continuing to run political campaigns the way we do. We can’t recruit enough good candidates when we make them spend 8 hours a day raising money and debase themselves with attack ads.
WE CAN do it by rebuilding our campaign process from the ground up, by organizing and training millions of ourselves to revitalize political campaigns with our talent, intelligence and passion.
We have to build the infrastructure to support our most critical resources: the skills, local knowledge and relationships of political volunteers, people just like you.
How many of you have skills that are useful to campaigns? How many of you have networks of friends and colleagues in your communities and across the country? How many of you offered to help a political campaign only to be told that your options were restricted to canvassing or calling using pre-written scripts? How many of you asked for literature or lawn signs only to be told that the money was being reserved to buy TV ads?
We need an uprising of political volunteerism
The American Left is full of people with great policy solutions to the problems we face as a nation – solutions which make our society and economy work for everyone, from the bottom to the top of the economic ladder, from here to around the world.
In contrast, our political campaign industry is increasingly dysfunctional. We often treat our millions of supporters like little more than ATMs. We waste too much of our money on useless polls, digging for dirt, and running enough attack ads to alienate every voter in America.
For more than 20 years, the creativity, energy and positive word of mouth generated by political volunteers has been squeezed out of the process by an increasingly top down system, dependent on an endless cycle of fundraising and attack ads and tone-deaf to feedback from on the ground. (Obama ’08 is a notable exception.)
Our resources are focused on the top of the ticket, on the biggest campaigns which disappear after Election Day and contribute nothing toward state and local party operations, ongoing infrastructure, or future state and local campaigns.
I have traveled across this country talking to campaign staffers and candidates, party leaders and staffers, and every one of them feels trapped in a system in which they have insufficient resources and no decision-making power.
We can’t beat the Right Wing by outspending them on attack ads. We have to engage in what Sun Tzu called “asymmetrical warfare”. We have to beat them with the one thing money can’t buy: real people, in the community, who care and are willing to work. Campaigns are won on the ground with volunteers and word-of-mouth, not money and ads.
According to the FEC, Hillary Clinton outspent Donald Trump by a 2 to 1 margin. In money spent on advertising, she outspent him by more than 3 to 1. Trump’s spending on staff was almost nonexistent. His campaign was run and won on the ground with volunteers.
Donald Trump built a revolution of anger. We must build a revolution of hope.
We must completely change how campaigns operate. We can build a passionate, benevolent, and extraordinarily effective nation-wide political volunteer community.
Across the country there are millions of kind and decent people like you who could and should be trusted to engage in positive political outreach and deep community organizing on behalf of good candidates. There are also many of you who would make wonderful candidates.
What we need is a way to organize ourselves and develop our campaign skills. The current tools (Facebook, MeetUp) are inadequate. I and a group of like-minded people have been searching for a solution. We have started a project we call UpRise.
UpRise will be permanent online volunteer home, a hub for real-world action in issue and candidate campaigns.
Imagine a place where you can build local volunteer communities, seek opportunities from a wide range of campaigns and causes and also access tools for organizing your own house parties, speeches and town halls, street teams, demonstrations, lawn sign and other visibility campaigns, and more.
UpRise isn’t another attempt to organize you. It is an attempt to give you the platform and the tools you need to organize yourselves.
We have launched the beta version of the platform in Virginia. You can create your own account here.
Please join us. People like you are the solution.
– Antonia Scatton, Co-founder, UpRise.org