Hey, good news!
It’s actually pretty simple. First, most of the parties that need to find seats in congress already exist, and have their own organizations. So, there are only a few simple steps in our process:
- Convince small political parties to elect candidates to the House of Representatives.
- Select appropriate districts for each of those parties to run in, based on factors including demographics and electability.
- Help those parties and candidates to leverage their national resources to win each campaign.
Recent changes in technology have enabled political campaigns to work in new ways. Two technologies in particular: cell phones, and the Internet.
I unabashedly advocate modeling new congressional campaigns after the presidential campaigns that were most successful in the 2008 election, and have enjoyed some success since. In short, the technique consists of distributing voter information, for a concentrated district, to the nationwide pool of party members and volunteers. Similarly, that nationwide pool can be leveraged to finance campaigns.
I don’t want to name specific parties in my example, so I will make up a name (which may or may not be real). Let’s call it the Cucumber party. The Cucumber party has a national following of over a million people who believe in Cucumber principles such as fiscal fairness, reform of gerrymandering, and opposition to the use of lead bullets in war. (Yeah, I’m reaching for unoffensive arbitrariness.) The Cucumbers aren’t represented in any elected office, but believers frequent their web site, cucumberparty.org.
Well, we’d like to see the Cucumbers get a seat in Congress. So, first, we’re going to reach out to them. One of Polypartisan’s volunteers will go onto the party’s web site and make contact by email and telephone and talk to the party’s heads about running for federal office. This is really the hard part, because there is a barrier of doubt. That is, when we talk to the Cucumber leadership, they’re going to tell us, “We don’t think we could ever actually get elected.” They’re going to say, “We’re afraid of being a spoiler, and throwing the race to the Republicrats that we don’t like.” They might even simply laugh at our ideas. So, it’s going to be hard- and we’re going to have to do it over and over again, for many parties.
Next, we will work with the party to identify a district. We figure out that there’s a district in Maine where many of the people hold similar values as the Cucumbers, and where the incumbent candidate, who’s not really fully satisfying to the population, has been winning by only a few percentage points each election. This is the place! Now it’s up to the Cucumbers, with only a little bit of help from us, to come up with their candidate. It doesn’t matter whether he or she is a carpetbagger, or is native to the district; as long as the candidate is committed, and qualified, then we’ll leave it to the party to pick their candidate.
Now, on to the actual work. We’ll be helping the Cucumbers to deploy a national campaign system similar to the one used to elect our current President. But, it will be way simpler than that. First, we are only working with the voter rolls of a single district- usually around 600,000 people, a database small enough to fit on less than one CD-ROM, or even an email attachment. Second, through math that I won’t bore you with right now, it turns out that we only need as many votes as about 1/6th of the population of the district to win the election.
Ok, so I will lay it out just a bit. Basically, out of the population of a district, only about 70% are eligible to vote, as the rest are underage, felons, or non-citizens. That brings us down to about 400,000. Out of those, only about 40% tend to turn out to vote in a midterm election, 60% in a presidential election. 60% is still less than 300,000 most of the time. Out of that, the winning candidate would need 150,001 to win in a two party race, but as little as 100,001 in a three party race- which we are running. Not only that, but if we target the habitual non-voters, there’s more than enough people among them to turn the race to us even if we don’t change a single bipartisan mind.
We have an advantage when it comes to non-voters, because we are bringing something to the table that the major parties can’t offer: a chance to really make a difference. Just from talking to nonvoters, I have gotten the same answer over and over: “I don’t feel like it matters who I vote for, both parties are the same.” So true! So the answer naturally is to vote for a third party- except that in congressional races, most potential voters have never even had an opportunity to vote for a truly different choice. “Mr. Smith, I know what you mean about feeling that both parties represent status quo. But in this particular election, you have a chance to vote for something truly different. Isn’t that worth the time it takes to pull a lever?” That’s just a part of the effective conversation a volunteer, whether from Polypartisan or from the individual party, can have with a potential voter- whether on the phone or at the front door.
So it’s not really that hard, once we get the candidates in place, to win the elections. The hard part is getting there.
So, now you know what the problem is. You’ve seen one vision of a solution. And you know what we need to do to get there.