Introduction: Why should we care about electoral politics?
Lasting change can only be assured through electoral wins. This guide will give you the background on campaigns and elections you need to get involved in electoral politics for the first time.
Ch 1: Why Do We Hold Elections?
Elections let us determine who makes our decisions for us. Different decisions are made at different levels of government, and knowing who the final decisionmaker is on the issues that matter to you, will make you a more effective electoral advocate.
Ch 2: How Do Elections Work?
Understanding campaigns is critical before diving into the electoral process. Campaigns and elections come with a lot of jargon. How do primaries, general elections, and independent expenditures work? Who’s who on a campaign staff, and what’s up with outside campaign consultants? This chapter helps demystify some campaign buzzwords.
Ch 3: How Do Governments Shape Elections?
Governments can have a huge impact on election accessibility. Our country has a long history of intentional voter suppression. State governments typically control elections, and can make it easier or harder for people to cast a ballot.
Ch 4: How Can Your Group Take Action?
Your group can make a real impact on electoral politics. Through volunteering, generating earned media, and endorsing, your group can be a real player in electoral politics.
Conclusion: How Do We Get Started?
Election Day 2018 is a year away, and groups are excited to hit the ground running. Once you’ve finished reading through the guide, here are some immediate steps you can take to put your knowledge to action.
PLEASE NOTE: How you engage in elections depends a lot on your group’s organizational status. This guide is intended for unincorporated local groups and those spending money under 501(c)(4) tax rules--independently, or through fundraising tools we plan to offer as a 501(c)(4) organization ourselves. We do not recommend you incorporate as a 501(c)(3), as these organizations have serious limitations on their ability to participate in elections.
Why should Indivisible groups care about electoral politics?
Over the last year, we’ve demonstrated the power of standing Indivisible. Indivisible groups helped save the Affordable Care Act from repeal. We flocked to airports nationwide after the first Muslim ban was announced. We demonstrated solidarity in the wake of horrific white supremacist attacks in Charlottesville. And we are fighting to defeat the Trump Tax Scam and ensure permanent protections for DACA recipients and their families. We’ve proven that, together, we can resist this authoritarian administration and its agenda to hurt our families and neighbors—so why should we turn our attention to the messy business of electoral politics?
When people talk about hating politics, they often mean that they hate campaigns. Campaigns can be frustrating. It can seem like the industries and candidates with the most money drown out the rest of us in a flood of meaningless or negative campaign ads. Talking heads on cable news treat campaigns like horse races, and trivialize issues that matter to our families.
But elections and campaigns don’t have to be so painful! Once you cut past the jargon and the spin, elections are another way of exerting constituent power. Exercising that power by participating in electoral politics can be thrilling -- not to mention a great way to make lasting friends, and feel stronger in solidarity in the fights to come.
And there are lots of reasons for groups to get involved in electoral politics:
To secure our wins long-term, we need to elect people who see them as wins. The current leadership in Washington continues to push a harmful agenda that hurts our families, weakens our democracy, and endangers our environment. If we want to actually create lasting change on the issues that matter to us, we need to win electoral victories first.
Participating in elections helps highlight progressive values and policies. When we get out in front on important policy issues, and fight for our values through electoral participation, we can win a coveted place at the agenda-setting table. Flexing our movement’s electoral muscle sets the stage for progressive candidates and electeds to serve with political courage.
It’s past time we recognize that progressives exist in every state and district. For too long, the political left has overlooked or taken for granted vast swaths of the American electorate. In many parts of the country, there is no progressive bench -- because progressives haven’t contested key races in generations. You’ve all proven that there are progressives in every Congressional district in the country. Engaging in electoral politics is a way to build local power and grow capacity so that our movement endures beyond this moment of resistance.
Getting involved in elections reminds us that we’re not alone in this fight. The health care fight became a flashpoint: a key political moment that united people across the county, allowing local groups to take meaningful action, recruit new members and grow existing members’ leadership and skills. Electoral campaigns provide the same opportunity. Campaigns can be a great way to meet other local activists and forge new connections for the fight ahead.
What’s this guide for?
Just as you’ve taken back constituent power, you can take back electoral power. This guide is meant as a long-term resource, rather than a quick how-to. We want you to have the background you need to engage effectively in electoral politics. This guide is a 101 on elections in America, from what elections actually determine, to specifics on how campaigns work, to why your vote matters.
Make this guide work for you. You don’t have to read this guide in a single sitting. Feel free to refer back to it over the coming months whenever you have questions on campaign specifics. And always feel free to get in touch with your Indivisible Organizer via their email or via email@example.com if you have any questions that aren’t covered in here.