The 1% to root for: redirect 1% of political ad spending to organizing voters in the Rising American Electorate

To build a vibrant progressive infrastructure lasting for years to come, we should create a groundswell of pressure on donors to move a tiny portion of their money — from the traditional political party machinery to grassroots voter organizing movements. 

Engaging voters and bringing them into our democratic systems should be a year-round investment in creating durable social institutions, not just one-off frenzies two weeks before THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF YOUR LIFE.

Here’s one website already devoted to spotlighting grassroots organizing groups in strategically important states: http://movement2016.org/.

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How much money should be the goal? Consider that the 2016 election cycle is expected to shatter political spending records, with some estimates for advertisements alone ranging from $4 billion (federal races) to $6 billion and $11 billion. Given the inconclusive or debatable research literature on the impact of political ads on voters, particularly negative attack ads, the enormous amounts of money to be spent on TV ads call for considering other efforts with more bang for the buck or “return on investment.” (It should also be noted that fancy media buyers and consultants typically take large cuts of their clients’ political ad expenditures.)

So imagine if just 1% of that total political spending going towards TV ads — or to make the goal even more modest, $20 million — was redirected to progressive grassroots groups that engage, educate, and inspire voters as a matter of mission year-round. These are groups in key states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, and Nevada, as well as states where progressives are making inroads on conservative turf, like Texas, West Virginia, and Georgia.

Among these grassroots organizing groups are those also focused on reaching and registering voters comprising the Rising American Electorate, including unmarried women, Asian Americans, African Americans, Latinos, other people of color, and Millennials: the Americans who are driving the recent growth in our country’s population. As Steve Phillips wrote in his new book Brown is the New White, this demographic revolution is creating a New American Majority.

In light of the pivotal influence they would continue to wield on American public affairs, we can’t leave these voters up for grabs. And we don’t have to, if more donors could be convinced to rethink even just a tiny portion of their contributions to meet the needs of this century, not the previous one.

(Note: many thanks to Steven Cobble for submitting the idea to push for new voter registration efforts focused on the New American Majority and highlighting its importance.)