This is the time of year when the sound of a phone ringing can fill me with dread. This points to cowardice on my part to be sure. Would that I could summon the courage to navigate the 5 to 10 calls a day from candidates and organizations seeking my money and support, but there are days when I cannot face the demand... when I frantically push at the decline button and then put my head between my knees. I truly wish that I had the money to give each and every caller a large donation, but alas there is dog food to buy and rent to pay. I am sure that many of you share this sentiment. We want to give, but how can we compete with the arrival of Super PACs? The political landscape is disheartening. Billionaires are hijacking the airwaves and it feels like the entire political process. With Citizens United, the Supreme Court has unleashed financial foes with resources that are beyond our imaginings and for most of us it is unsettling, even scary to contemplate.
Firstly we need to take a deep breath. It is important to remember that big money has been playing a role in out political outcomes for a long long time. It has taken different forms and played by any number of rulebooks, but it has always been there. In political parlance this spending is known as "The Other Campaign." In 2000, the "Other" spent 16 million in Ohio alone and is widely believed to have played a significant role in the outcome. So yes an avalanche of money is heading into the system. it is predicted that the Republican side will pour 600 million "Other" dollars into the 2012 election cycle. It is also important to remember that candidates from both parties have been outspent by great margins and still managed to win on the merits.
So as we contemplate this new political landscape, we must look at new ways to build coalitions that can withstand the onslaught and promote big D democratic values. We need to learn how to operate within this new system and develop long term strategies to cope. It is not enough to hope that Citizens United will be soon overturned. Are we mad about this new development? Sure we are, but as the old saying goes "Don't get mad... get organized." This is how I found myself agreeing to become part of a Super PAC. Yes that's right .... me ... a Super PACKER. Look out Sheldon Adelson. I'm coming for ya!
Ironically, this began with a phone call. Steve Phillips and his wife Susan Sandler have been a force in progressive politics for decades and have founded a new organization called PAC+. The resources they are marshaling will come from many donors, not mega donors It will cost Foster Friess (of "hold and aspirin between your knees" fame) millions to stoke his pipe dream of a Santorum presidency. Membership in PAC+ requires a $20.00 per month commitment. I feel rich enough to swing that and if we are able to achieve the goals set out by this organization, we will get a whole lotta bang for our bucks. Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus um... er... plan.
PAC+ is organized around the principle that Democrats are spending millions and millions every cycle to pursue strategies that are based on an outdated and inaccurate picture of the American electorate. Loosely translated this means that we are continuing to pour our resources into the traditional battleground states and ignoring the profound demographic shifts that will shape the future of progressive politics.
The numbers are provocative. People of color will make up 36 percent of the voting population in the coming decade. Reliably progressive whites make up 28%. Added together these groups constitute a 64% majority that could sustain progressive policies at the state and national level for decades to come. So how do we motivate these groups to come together and head to the polls? We need to get past our myopic obsession with "likely voters" and start reaching out to the constituencies that vote occasionally or are registered, but do not participate.
The goal is to aggregate these groups into a voting block that can be persuaded to work together to achieve significant power at the polls. Consider Texas. Currently the percentage of people of color in Texas is 54% and growth charts reveal that it could easily reach 58% by 2020. So why such an entrenched right wing dominance in this state? Simple math. 65% of whites regularly turn out to vote in Texas, but only 38% of Latino voters, whereas in California 68% of eligible latino voters turn up. This is not rocket science. The larger the turnout of people of color, the more progressive a state is likely to be. Where is the Democratic party in all of this? Putting out fires in the purple states and trying to compete with Koch brother funded opposition to EVERYTHING the president says, does or contemplates saying or doing.
Enter PAC+. The plan is to focus on six states where there is or will be a sea change in demographic composition and spend millions of dollars cultivating voters. The states are Arizona, California, Georgia, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas, all of which are experiencing a revolutionary population shift and all of which have tremendous potential. Let me give you an example of what can be accomplished:
In 2008 the vote in Georgia was 52% McCain 48% Obama. The margin of loss was 204,636 votes. 98% of people of color voted for Obama while 77% of white voters favored McCain. The additional potential turnout among POC was 810,460. If we had motivated one quarter of those folks Obama would have won the state. Simple statistics such as these are remarkable enough, but it is the passion of Steve Phillips and the other tremendous minds behind PAC+ that made it impossible for me to say no.
People of color and progressive whites are natural allies and it is time for us to move beyond identity politics and work side by side to secure the future. Together we have over 12 million households with an annual income of over $100,00. If only 1% of us commit to this work at $20 dollars per month we can bring as much as $29.7 million a year into the mix in the battleground states of the future. We can be our own billionaire. It is time to stop talking about demographic shifts in this country as if they were a distant opportunity. The future has arrived. We are "the other" campaign that can have the biggest impact of them all.
There are a lot of rotten things going on right now and most of us are just trying to keep up. Those right wing dollars are on the march attacking programs and laws that we cherish. Things like health care for women and incredibly... contraception. Things like union rights and voting rights, clean air and water and not demanding people's citizenship papers because they crossed the damned street. Yes, there is a lot going on and this will be a busy election year, but we owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to build a lasting coalition and use this super pac to create a super majority of folks who believe in the very things we are fighting for. They might be able to outspend us, but they cannot out-vote us if we unite. The numbers are indeed provocative and they are on our side. We have set a goal of 100,000 members and I hope that you will consider becoming one of them. It won't take much of your time, it will cost you the equivalent of three visits to Starbucks and we'll all sleep a little better. This is a call whose time has come. This is a call to action that blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, American Indians should all take.
For more information, go to the PAC Plus website.