WHY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IN 2018?
It restored the balance of power. Republicans have voted with President Trump nearly 100% of the time and have drafted sweeping legislation, including tax overhaul, with no Democratic input—because they don’t need it. In this environment, there were virtually no checks and balances on the Tea Party agenda. Winning the House was imperative!
It was winnable. Trump’s approval ratings remained low throughout his first two years in office. Democrats needed 24 seats to take back the House; these included the 23 Republican-held districts Hillary won.
It’s more local. House races offer a real chance to engage in meaningful neighbor-to-neighbor dialogue about values and issues, a dialogue that is essential to bringing us back from the yelling and partisan polarization plaguing our current political environment.
WHY LOCAL ORGANIZING VS. DONATING TO CANDIDATES OR PARTY?
It builds the voter base. A key to success is ongoing, repeated engagement with voters around issues, which allows organizations to build relationships and trust that can be activated cycle after cycle, regardless of the specific candidate. Imagine the possibilities if some of the millions of last-minute dollars poured into the unsuccessful John Ossoff campaign in 2018 (GA - 06) had gone to local organizing groups leading year-round voter engagement.
It can support other races. It was all about the House in 2018—and so much more. By strengthening local leadership, we were building permanent infrastructure that will also support local and statewide races and create new candidate pipelines, because the long game is to take back statehouses, and other offices, too.
It’s replicable and will remain in place after 2018. Tools used to help these organizations can be shared across networks of progressive groups and local advocacy organizations nationally, helping them become more effective and sustainable. These organizations are committed to not only remaining in district after 2018 but building on their volunteer infrastructure for future elections.
WHAT ARE THE "RIGHT TACTICS"?
Every district is different and will need a different mix of engagement and get out the vote (GOTV) efforts for infrequent base voters, registration drives for new voters, and persuasion for swing voters. There are more, and less, effective ways to do each of these things; our partners are both scaling proven approaches and pioneering new ones. Examples include:
Working America’s Experiment Informed Programs (EIPs) use statistical sampling to test messaging, allowing Working America to identify pockets of receptive voters to target and—equally importantly—un-receptive voters to avoid. This approach both ensures the most resonate messages are used, and that resources aren’t wasted where they aren’t likely to succeed.
Dave Fleischer and the Leadership LAB developed deep canvassing to do much more effective voter persuasion than conventional campaign tactics. Conventional canvassing relies on 2-minute conversations where the volunteer primarily recites a script, telling the voter how we want them to change. Deep canvassing instead engages each voter in a 10-20 minute, non-judgmental dialogue focusing on the voter’s real, lived experience. The result of this new approach—confirmed in a randomized controlled trial of the Leadership LAB’s work reducing prejudice against transgender people—is lasting change in voters’ opinions.