Five political “startups”

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I’ve recently begun supporting several political organizations on a monthly basis. They mostly have these characteristics in common:

    • They aren’t tied to a single candidate who’ll either win or lose and then that’s that, so there’s little chance I’ll feel I threw away my money on a losing cause.
    • They’re devoted to building long term infrastructure, which is the best way for my gifts to keep on giving.
    • They’re not just focused on federal offices, but address the vast Democratic disadvantage at state and local levels. (GOP control of state legislatures, for example, is reaching the point where they’re beginning to talk about staging a constitutional convention to amend the Constitution in ways that will move the country even further to the right.)
    • They’re focused on niches that have some “oomph” in current public discourse, which makes it more likely that they’ll be able to get people to join or at least sympathize with their respective missions.
    • They have that “start up” feel to them, the sense that they’ve found some innovative way to make a difference, some newly discovered low hanging fruit to pick. (Ultimately, electoral politics is still a tug-of-war, but these groups have found ways to get more people involved in the pulling, or to help them pull harder.)

And here they are:

This group arose from the March for Science, and is recruiting, training, and supporting scientists and STEM professionals to run for public office at all levels. Wouldn’t it be great to have more officeholders who have been trained to distinguish fact from fiction? But what I’m even more excited about is the new blood this will inject into the Democratic Party.

On the subject of STEM, this group recruits, organizes, and equips high tech professionals to help campaigns with technology. This can range from simply setting up a website and social feeds to creating digital ad campaigns to doing sophisticated data analysis of the voter rolls to more accurately target registration and get-out-vote efforts. One of their long term goals is to create software that can be reused by future campaigns. I’m excited not just about the good they’ll do, but over all the high tech professionals they’re going to activate politically (over 3000 so far!) and all the work those individuals will go on to do in their lives, whether under the auspices of Tech For Campaigns or not.

It might seem odd to include this venerable organization in a list of political “startups”, but here’s the “oomph”: since Trump’s inauguration and as of the date of this post, over 20,000 women have contacted Emily’s List wanting to run for public office. (As compared to 900 in the entire 2015-16 election cycle.) That’s a lot of fresh blood at every level of government, and it means more women in politics in general. (Which is almost certainly a good thing, especially when we think about how GOP repeal of Obamacare has been blocked so far by female GOP senators.)

I spent some time looking for an anti-gun violence group to support, and with the help of this article on “How to Build an Anti-NRA”, decided on this one, because it’s

  • Big, with over 4 million members right now.
  • Populist and common-sensical in tone, which is the best way to engage the American public. (Compare even just the great name, for example, with something like “The Coalition Against Gun Violence.”)
  • Electorally aggressive, promising to compile NRA-like report cards and spend money to defeat gun nuts running for office.

GOP voter suppression probably swung a state or two in the last presidential election, and might even have decided the 2000 election. This group promises to bring the issue into national consciousness, as well as campaign against candidates who support voter suppression efforts.

And that’s my list. None of them are perfect. I’m far from 100% happy about any of them. But I’m not about to let the perfect become the enemy of the good. (I’ve gotten very annoyed, for example, with Everytown constantly trying to sell me merchandise, but realize that that’s what the NRA is doing on the other side, and it’s a way for populist organizations to raise money and spread brand awareness. And Emily’s List gets a lot of criticism from the far left for favoring moderate candidate over more progressive ones, but their policy is to back the likeliest winners rather than the most ideologically pure.) Ultimately, these are organizations pulling the rope in the right direction.

Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.

If you don’t regularly support some kind of political action, please consider starting with one of these groups. It doesn’t have to be much. You could just match whatever you currently pay each month for Netflix, for example. It’s like voting: it’s not so much about what any one vote can do, as what can happen if enough of us do it.