One would think the way the left and media rails against President Donald Trump and the GOP in Congress the Democratic Party would be prepared to go into 2018 and make dents in Capital Hill. It helps that GOP donors have decided to withhold funds after the Obamacare debacle.
Nope. In Politico, Michael Whitney, who led fundraising for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) in the primaries, wrote that the Democrats have “a serious fundraising crisis” mainly because the party has a tough time convincing small-dollar donors to donate.
Yes, big money is important, but Whitney explains why small-dollar donors are a key:
This isn’t just about money. Small-dollar donors are an important measure of how much grass-roots enthusiasm a campaign or organization has. They are the supporters who will show up to knock on doors, make phone calls and get out the vote. And since they don’t donate enough to reach campaigns’ individual contribution limits, you can return to ask them for money time and again—which frees campaigns from continually being on the hunt for new, deep-pocketed donors who can max out. The lack of their support threatens to prevent major gains by the party in 2018 and beyond.
So how do you get those small-dollar donors to fork over the money? The message. During his time With Sanders, Whitney discovered that the most important this is “figuring out an empowering message of hope and reaching people with it.” Whitney wrote:
In his own way, Trump has consistently embraced this same sentiment in messages to supporters. He’s become a more prolific small-dollar fundraiser than any Democrat precisely because he’s using empowering, movement-based language that specifically prioritizes small donations and treats online communications as relationships, not transactions. His campaign’s emails specifically speak about the idea that Trump can’t be successful on his own—that success is only possible if his supporters are with him.
Take his campaign’s February 2017 email with the subject line, “I can’t do it alone.” “We need to stay focused on getting the job done and accomplishing our shared goal to Make America Great Again!” read the message from Trump. “But I can’t do it alone. I need you by my side, supporting our message and doing your part to get the truth to the American voter.”
Whitney then dissected the problems with the emails sent out by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). He credits them for perfecting “a relentless digital program that seeks to squeeze every cent out of its email list.” However, the messaging is off and even dishonest:
You can set your watch to the worst of the DCCC’s fundraising tactics. In the early afternoon of the last day of every month, the committee sends a fundraising email to its list that screams “FINAL NOTICE” in its subject line and content. The effect is to shock people into opening the message out of fear that they’ve missed a payment or that they might have their power shut off.
Other DCCC emails cause messaging whiplash. In the week before the June special election in Georgia featuring Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, the DCCC sent a fundraising email with the subject line “JON OSSOFF LOSES!” … followed by another email four hours later with the subject line “Ossoff DOMINATES!” Ossoff’s campaign used nearly identical tactics itself. Just two days before the election, it sent a fundraising email to supporters with the subject line, “Accept defeat. Jon Ossoff lost. It’s over.”
Fundraising Outside of the Party
But the Democrats also have to bring donors back directly to the party as independent organizations have latched onto those donors. The Daily Beast reported that the group Indivisible, comprised of former congressional staffers, managed to raise “over $40,000 on the Friday after the most recent ACA repeal effort failed.” The group raised $1 million in June.
Daily Kos, ActBlue, and Swing Left have also raised over $2 million, but have not announced how they will spend the money and on which candidates.
This causes a problem for the Democrats. These groups can throw the money at any candidate they want even if the national party decides against involvement:
Flush with cash, these independent progressive organizations have been able to throw their weight around in elections of their choosing, even if the national apparatus sits one out.
Daily Kos was instrumental in raising funds for the first special election of the year alongside Democracy for America, a political action committee founded by Howard Dean and Our Revolution, an organization spun out of Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT.) presidential campaign. Despite taking place in a district that President Trump carried by 27 points, the Democrat in that Kansas congressional race, James Thompson, lost in a surprisingly narrow fashion, raising questions as to why the national Democratic party stayed away until the last moment.
RNC vs. DNC
In June, reports came out that the RNC pulled in $10.9 million in May, “more than twice the amount collected by its Democratic counterpart.” The DNC only raised $4.29 million in May.
That is no doubt a reason for the DNC panic, but that was May. A lot has happened since then, including top GOP donors closing their wallets to the party after Congress could not repeal and replace Obamacare:
At least $2 million in contributions promised to the National Republican Senatorial Committee have failed to materialize because donors are expressing frustration with the Senate GOP’s inability to fulfill their central campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, according to two GOP sources familiar with the matter.
The shortfall, officials said, also points to a larger concern within the party that their core voters may be disillusioned heading into the 2018 midterms when Democrats have a serious shot of retaking the House.
I blogged that the GOP should have no problem holding the majority in the Senate in 2018, but without the funds the GOP may not have the ability to properly fight vulnerable Democrats, thus stunting GOP growth.
So with both parties now facing fundraising issues it’ll be even more interesting to see how 2018 plays out, especially if individual organizations gain more power.