Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Pandemic Is Killing Progressive Congressional Campaigns-- We Can't Let That Happen


You know what's come to a grinding halt? Fundraising for grassroots congressional candidates. Coronavirus fear and the stock market collapse seem to have hit most campaigns across America. I've been hearing from candidates that their call time efforts are yielding less than half of what they were raising last month and that their e-mail programs are doing even worse.

"It is super slow," one progressive candidate up against a well-heeled conservative told me this morning. "I just spent 5 hours doing calls and that resulted in $160 dollars-- and only because I was also calling people to thank them for their February contributions and they contributed again. No new contributions." Another candidate, up against a Trump bootlicker, told me her efforts are "$75,000 behind where we should be for this quarter and are looking at having to cut $1 mill out of our $2,750,000 budget." And a third House candidate said "Fundraising dropped dramatically in a month it should have (and needed to) go up dramatically. We had 12-15 house parties scheduled. A few of them were meant to be big dollar (many people) affairs with a band and everything. We were calculating that we would have enough to have major field operations occurring and do 3 or more mailers. Now we are laying off field organizers at the end of the month because we have very little coming in. Mailers are unlikely. Virtual house parties have not been very successful so far."

Mark Gamba, as an Oregon mayor, is already coping with the pandemic-- while trying to run a congressional campaign for a seat held by one of Congress' most reactionary Blue Dogs, Kurt Schrader. This morning Mark came right to the point: "This is an extraordinary moment in history. No one alive has experienced this. Certainly, no modern political campaigns have been waged when doors are unknockable, houses are unpartyable, and people are truly feeling the need to hunker down, draw in, hoard toilet paper and pray they survive whatever the hell is happening out there.
This should also serve as a clarion call to the left.

We are seeing in stark terms the utter failure of the neo-liberal philosophy. Privatized hospitals for profit, states bidding against one another for critical life saving materials and equipment, people who avoid seeking medical attention because they can’t afford the bill, people working when they are sick because they can’t afford not to. Every single bit of that can be laid at the feet of the neo-liberal establishment.

Make no mistake, it is actually in their play book to use disasters like this to further their agenda-- we should all be watching for the privatization of some other critical service, or the gutting of Social Security, or massive cash out-pouring to the corporations and the one percent. They will attempt it, and most of Congress will go along with it. Maybe all will, because it will by tied to money for critical things like hospital beds and ventilators and voting against that will look heartless.

Now more then ever in the history of our country, do we need a massive influx of new members of congress. Members who are not millionaires, members who didn’t adjust their stock holdings before they warned the American people of the impending disaster. People who actually care about America and its extraordinary people more than they do about profits for a few... [T]his is the time to do everything we can to replace the status quo... Phone bank, text bank and please donate to the campaigns that are doggedly staying the course in order to fix all that is broken.
A couple of days ago, super-progressive Queens candidate Shaniyat Chowdhury sent an e-mail to his supporters explaining the situation:
"The COVID-19 epidemic has taken hold of our lives here in New York 5. We have just begun to adapt to remote work and social distancing for an indefinite period of time. It’s important to keep in mind that this insurgent campaign is full of working class people who are also vulnerable in a number of ways.

As the number of cases rise, we are increasing our efforts as a campaign to participate in and promote Mutual Aid. We will always strive to love our neighbors and take care of our community, no matter the struggles we face.

 ...This is an extraordinary circumstance. In times like these, we need leaders in power who will not only put our public health and safety first but will also fight to secure the necessities that will sustain us through good and bad times.

For example:

We need a $2,000 universal basic income for every American for the duration of this crisis.

We need a universal rent freeze and paid sick and family leave.

We need to make all healthcare costs free. All workers deserve paid sick and family leave, especially now as going to work could mean risking your safety or the safety of loved ones.

We owe a great deal of gratitude to those who continue necessary service work at this time. Those who continue to work on the front lines in hospitals and in grocery stores are truly inspiring!

This campaign is continuing its operations digitally and many of our paid staff are working class people, like you and me, with families to protect at this vulnerable time. Each of our members has participated in Mutual Aid of some sort. I understand that at this time you have other, far more serious, concerns.

Our top priority is to ensure that our incredible staff gets paid. But, with such a slowdown in donations, that is going to be difficult.

If you can, please spare $15 or $20 so that we can pay our working class staff for the next few months so they don't have to worry about the instability that this pandemic has caused for so many. 
When I contacted him directly, Shan told me that "Fundraising was going well the last two months up until this pandemic hit us. It’s been abysmal since. Fundraising is an essential component for a grassroots campaign like ours. Like many who are being laid off and losing jobs right now because of the current situation, campaign staff feel it the most. These campaigns are not just political-- these are full time jobs for them. Without it, they could be jobless. The last thing campaigns want to do it is lay people off or cut hours."

Shaniyat Chowdhury and Robin Wilt-- New York's future

Robin Wilt's New York-- the Rochester area-- is far from Shan's... but their campaigns are suffering the same pandemic problem. This morning she gave me a somber update:
Fundraising in light of the COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult, as you can imagine-- Not just because of the uncertainties ahead, but also because, as an activist, my first priority is assisting the frontline communities that are most directly at risk for immediate impact in this crisis. The first thing our campaign did in the wake of the State of Emergency protocols was transition to mutual aid efforts. We joined with a local food program-- ROC SALT, which operates out of the South Wedge Food Pantry in the city of Rochester (it is now one of the only food pantries operating in all of Monroe County) to deliver food to those in need. In addition to traditional outreach, our phone banking has transitioned to wellness checks on seniors. Our social media outreach has been updates on the ever-changing landscape and protocols in response to mobilizing to stem the spread of COVID-19. Fundraising, as a priority, has shifted in wake of the emergency. We have led by example and in keeping with our principles.

Fundraising also proves difficult because those in a financial secure position to give have suffered tremendous losses in the markets, and those who could only afford small donations are now most at-risk for the dire effects of the pandemic-- from the standpoints of health, housing security, debt burden and education inequity, our frontline communities are struggling even worse than previously. While our Governor, to his credit, was quick to ensure those who carry student loan and mortgage debt were protected from the pandemic, and halted evictions, rent payments were not similarly stabilized. We have also partnered with the Citywide Tenants Union and Citizen Action New York (CANY)-- by whom we were recently endorsed-- in calling for equity in protections for those frontline communities-- like immediately housing the homeless, and halting cuts to Medicaid proposed by Governor Cuomo.

The pandemic has highlighted the very issues that progressive policy has sought to address, as well as the mutuality and intersectionality of our communities. While the pandemic remains the best case for our progressive platforms, our ethic and moral obligation to live our values has necessitated us turning into the leaders that we wish to see during the crisis, and shifted our priorities from the campaign’s individual fundraising goals.
Arizona progressive Eva Putzova noted that "While our opponent got $400,000 from corporate PACs just last year, we depend completely on individual donors. I understand the uncertainty people are dealing with today. The truth is that when the stock market was 'doing well,' too many working people were not. They were living paycheck to paycheck. I'm taking unpaid time off from my day job to continue this campaign because one day, this current global crisis will be over and we need a Congress that will transform our economy, our healthcare, and our attitude toward the climate crisis that is not in any way less significant than the public health crisis we are experiencing. We can't just go to pre-Trump America. And this is why I'm running for Congress and why I need the support of people of good will." She also told me that he online funding raising has taken a major hit. "It’s dismal. Both email and Twitter are delivering very little."

Ditto for Spokane area progressive Chris Armitage, who told me that he "had to cancel major fundraisers and we're switching all operations to digital outreach. Our fundraising is about 25% of what it would be without the public health crisis. Our district had over 10% unemployment before this, and it is now much worse. On the upside we are only a few days from having 100 text bankers mobilized, people are mad as hell and ready to act."

Julie Oliver is another progressive Democrat running for a Republican-held seat in one of the grotesquely gerrymandered Austin-area districts. She won her primary outright-- no runoff-- and now she's organizing and campaigning, digitally, against Texas' most corrupt congressman, swindler Roger Williams. This morning, Julie told me that "As the mother of a child with a compromised immune system, who's physical health could degrade quite rapidly if he came into contact with an infected person (who may or may not have symptoms), taking the threat of the spread and devastation of the coronavirus is something I take quite seriously. We need to hold elections, and one of the simplest ways to ensure that everyone who is eligible and wants to vote can indeed vote is to offer every voter the ability to vote by mail. It's safe; it's cost-effective; it results in a more informed electorate; and it allows the bedrock of our democracy-- voting-- to continue to function in times of uncertainty."

Kentucky state Rep. Charles Booker (D-Louisville) is the progressive candidate taking on Mitch McConnell. There's also a centrist Schumer candidate running in the primary. Like virtually all campaigns, Charles moved his campaign on line. "Like so many Americans, our campaign is making many adjustments to take every precaution and keep moving forward. The movement growing in Kentucky is powered by regular folks, many of whom were already doing their best to survive. Now that jobs are being lost, and businesses are closing, we have seen fundraising slow down as well. We are encouraged to see our support still growing, and we are dedicated ever more toward the goal of making sure Kentucky finally has a U.S. Senator who knows healthcare is a right, and actually gives a damn about us." Charles can certainly use some help, especially when you consider that McConnell's corporately-funded campaign has already taken in an obscene $17,404,905!

Jim Harper and Jennifer Christie are the two progressives with a shot of winning Indiana congressional races. And both have run into the same pandemic falloff everyone else has. Jim told us that his "campaign relies on small-dollar donors to fuel our grassroots effort. This fundraising has taken a significant hit for a couple of reasons. First, we have shifted some of our campaign time and energy to helping local non-profits and community aid organizations. Each day, our team volunteers somewhere in the district to try to lend a hand. But second, average Americans, who chip in $25, $50, or $100 to campaigns, are feeling the economic distress particularly hard and are understandably limited in their ability to help campaigns. Despite this, I am more committed to this race than ever. This crisis shows the need for progressive leadership to rebuild our country and repair our broken healthcare system. I am committed to providing that leadership in Congress, and we will call every voter and expand our digital organizing efforts so that we can fight for Medicare for All and rebuild our economy in a progressive manner."

Jennifer Christie, trying to win an open suburban district just north of Indianapolis, emphasized that she's the only scientist on the ballot, the only mother with young children, and the only candidate fighting for a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and other progressive causes. "We are also the only campaign in the race to refuse corporate PAC money and sign the 'No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge.' We have already been up against big money because the DCCC is helping our opponent. That’s not new and isn’t what concerns us. We know how to be efficient with our funds and have built a very strong field program. Recently, our Governor moved our Election Day by one month. We are not able to canvass door-to-door or do big events due to the pandemic, so we have reorganized our campaign to reach voters through other means. People are also feeling a financial pinch due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has effected our fundraising. It’s challenging because 100% of our donations come from individuals. We do not have high-priced consultants; our staff are experienced experts and local change-makers. We also have an extensive volunteer base. Nonetheless, it takes money to reach voters through mail, phone-banking, virtual events, and media.  We deeply appreciate every donation. Every dollar makes a difference. These times are uncertain in many ways, but one thing we know is that this time will be transformative. When we get through this, we can no longer accept that 87 million Americans are not insured or underinsured. We cannot accept an economy that only works for the billionaires. And we will still have the climate crisis to solve. It’s time or a Green New Deal, Medicare For All, and a Congress that works for the People. I will bring that change to Washington, but I need your help. The coronavirus pandemic has made our fight more challenging but it’s more important than ever."

Morgan Harper, the progressive taking on a wealthy conservative in Columbus, Ohio, is running a campaign going through the same tough times. "As we’re eagerly anticipating an update on the new date of Ohio’s primary, we’re still organizing and engaging the community as best we can. Once we have the new date, we will need to swiftly ramp up our voter outreach efforts. Netroots support now will help us gear up to win, because our current health and economic crisis is highlighting that we need leadership advancing progressive policies now more than ever."

Another Midwest progressive candidate JD Scholten, is taking on neo-fascist extremist Steve King in Iowa. "Our first and primary focus is sharing accurate, reliable information and resources and helping those most in need," JD told me yesterday. "If folks have an extra dollar or two and they're willing to donate to our people-powered campaign, we're very grateful because we're not relying on corporate PACs. Right now, Iowa's 4th district has a congressman who voted against the Families First coronavirus relief package and has shown his utter lack of leadership during this crisis-- we're stepping up and filling that void."

Goal ThermometerTom Guild is the progressive taking on Trump-friendly Blue Dog Kendra Horn in Oklahoma City. "Campaigning in the middle of a pandemic is quite a challenge," he acknowledged. "Knocking doors is out of the question because of the fear of transmission of the coronavirus. Campaign kickoffs or receptions are out because no groups of 10+ are allowed. Groups or party organizations that usually invite candidates to speak and/or attend their events are out because those gatherings have been canceled. The Democratic Party’s state convention in Oklahoma, originally scheduled for April 4, was canceled a few weeks ago. Nearly all fundraising now takes place online. People who work for restaurants, bars, universities, public schools, gyms, and a variety of other organizations have been told to work from home or not at all. Many Americans are understandably freaked out about how they are going to pay their bills and survive during the current national crisis. Those scraping by from paycheck to paycheck, God bless them each and every one, are now unsure of when their next paycheck will arrive. It is a cinch that this all has a chilling effect on discretionary contributions to candidates for public office. As Eva Peron would say or sing at a time like this-- Don’t Cry for Me Argentina or Moscow, Oklahoma for that matter!”

All of these candidates mentioned above are explicitly running on platforms that include Medicare-for-All. The thermometer above is dedicated exclusively to candidates running on that issue as part of their platform. Please help them be able to continue their campaigns by contributing. Just click on the thermometer to get to the contribution boxes. And give what you can afford.

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At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are we to skip a meal or not pay a bill just so someone who will NOT serve as OUR representative can try to win election? If these candidates are real leaders, they will come up with a solution to their problem and not expect us to pay for one. If not, they can go back to their old job - if the business remains open after Trump kills half the population.

At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if you quit calling them 'progressive congressional campaigns' and called them 'democrap party congressional campaigns', suddenly it doesn't seem bad.

why is it that voters still cannot realize that when they vote for their favorite, even progressive, fucking democrap... they always get Pelosi doing all the deciding on everything.

why is it that those voters can't realize this? Is it because they're dumber than shit?

I believe so.


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