Talk of a Democratic wave in the fall midterm elections has reached a near-fever pitch.
The latest evidence of the coming tide, at least if you are to believe Republican Governor Scott Walker, was Rebecca Dallet’s election to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 3rd. Dallet, who had the support of the Democratic establishment, beat out a judge appointed by Governor Walker. This shrank the court’s conservative majority from 5-2 to 4-3. Walker’s response was to warn of a #bluewave “driven by anger and hatred,” which he implores Republicans to “counter with optimism and organization.”
If Democrats want to prove Scott Walker right and show him exactly what a blue wave looks like, we should take his advice and focus on organizing at scale, especially online, so we can mobilize at scale.
Time and again over the last eighteen months, Democrats have outperformed their historical success rates in districts and down-ballot races that have tended to favor Republican candidates. Dallet’s victory is a case in point. Democrats have struggled to win elections at all levels of government in Wisconsin of late and have had particular trouble electing liberal judges. Even if this single judicial race isn’t predictive of future success, it is surely indicative of some sort of change in the state’s electoral calculus.
Still, these sorts of wins are necessarily aided by an unusual amount of engagement at the local level. This increased engagement, in turn, can be directly linked to the state of national politics writ large. As national political discourse seeps into dialogue at the local level, increased local Democratic engagement has come to be a unique feature of this political moment.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that increased engagement is not sufficient to create a wave, no matter what Governor Walker says. Democrats have seen as much in a number of near-wins in deep red territory since the 2016 presidential election. And while it’s important to separate process from results, Democrats should be focused on winning every race individually.
One can usually win a single election by galvanizing and mobilizing support–this is especially true in environments where one’s base is already excited and engaged. However, to win consistently, one needs to organize and understand which voters to mobilize.
Rebecca Dallet’s victory can teach us a whole lot about the type of organizing we need to do and how we can do it.
Our digital organizing tool, an app called Team, was engaged in supporting Dallet’s campaign. We saw results that should be instructive moving forward. Not only did we see Dallet’s message being spread, but, perhaps more essentially, we were able to track how volunteers mobilized the right voters.
The power of digital organizing was crystal clear:
- The volunteer cohort increased by 150% with relatively little work;
- on average, 35-40% of each of these volunteers’ phone contacts matched with entries on the statewide target list;
- on average, 40-45% of volunteers’ Facebook friends similarly matched target lists; and
- volunteers shared over 95% of the content about Dallet on social media and by text message.
Dallet’s message was able to reach both a wider and more targeted population of voters thanks to Team.
These are replicable results that can be operationalized nationally. Team has started working with organizations that are looking toward building digital organizing infrastructure, as well as those campaigns that are focused on winning specific races. To this end, our clients are organizing a consistently efficacious and repeatable process to winning elections.
If the elections since the 2016 Presidential have taught us anything, it’s that national politics have motivated Democrats to show up. This is an energized and engaged electorate–a necessary, but insufficient – condition for a wave election. For Democrats to live up to this moment, we need to know who and how to mobilize, and we need to build a structure for digital organizing.
Every race is unique, but if Democrats can manage to organize online efficiently, they should be able to mobilize effectively in real life. This is what Team does. We organize to help mobilize. That’s the equation that produces a blue wave in the 2018 midterms. Let’s prove Scott Walker right.