Democrats & Liberals Archives

GOTV in the Invisible Election

The campaign for the Democratic nomination is underway, and has been for months. The primaries and caucuses themselves are still far away. The race has barely made our newspapers and TV screens yet. Even this blog just went live. But the invisible primary is well established. By “the invisible primary” I mean, of course, the competition to raise campaign money.

It's a truism that every election turns on voter turnout. Half of eligible voters don't vote, so an effort to get people to the polls can turn an election in the face of, at least potentially, a two-to-one disadvantage in actual public opinion. But it's even more true that an effort to get out the "vote" in the invisible election has the potential to overcome long odds. It's a good thing that it is, because the fundraising picture has historically been heavily skewed against the Democrats. It's even more important, imo, because the candidates who hold the early lead in fundraising aren't the most electable.

Presidential elections are the big event of US politics, and the 2000 campaign saw hundreds of millions of dollars spent on both sides. Unless the Democratic party loses so much ground that it can't mount a serious threat, we will probably soon see a billion dollar election campaign. But lets put that in perspective. There are over a quarter of a billion Americans. A hundred million or so of us voted in 2000. Almost all Americans can come up with ten dollars once in a while for a movie with some popcorn and a soft drink. If choosing whose approach guides our foreign policy were worth as much to every voter as a night at the movies every four years, we would have a billion dollars right there -- all in ten-dollar donations.

Part of the message we use to bring voters to the polls is that their vote matters, even though it's only one among millions. I'm saying that your donation matters, even though it's only one among millions. A candidate needs money to run a campaign. But they don't have to be dependent on the high-powered rolodexes of a few insiders. If you want to be part of an America where the government belongs to the people, look at the candidates, make a decision, and pull out your wallet.

Posted by dsws at June 15, 2003 10:03 AM