A reader recently emailed me with a request to address what he called “strategic” giving–advice about where our political donations will have the greatest impact, and will be most likely to help retain Democratic congressional majorities.
He noted that–in the aftermath of yet another extreme gerrymander in Indiana, this state would seem to be a lost cause. Like most of us who have ever rashly sent a few dollars to a candidate, he receives email requests almost daily for campaign donations from candidates and organizations across the country.
My track record as a political strategist is pathetic (not to mention my track record as a candidate…), so I forwarded his request to friends who are far more politically savvy. The email conversation that ensued left me with responses that were less than helpful, to put it mildly.
Here is the first of those responses. (I am not identifying the authors.)
Well, I would not say it was a waste to give to Dem congressional candidates like Christina Hale. The next cycle or two in Indiana in the 5th will be a challenge, but we are going to win it before the next decade (provided we have a functioning democracy, which is far from a forgone conclusion.). As to where to give, it is too early to give any really sound advice until redistricting is completed. But there will be 10-20 swing districts where the majority will hinge and folks who want their money to count should pay attention to that. And if there is a way to give but avoid the insane email, that would be ideal.
The second response was shorter–and darker.
I would just add that, to the extent there are effective GOTV operations in/around those 10-20 competitive districts, money might be well spent on those efforts as well.
Nobody in IN is going to see a dime of my money, as I think Indiana is lost for my lifetime.
And number three:
I wish I had something of value to add. As I read about reapportionment in many states I find this really disheartening. My question is: how do the Indiana legislative maps look? Will there be enough swing legislative districts that the Republicans can even be denied a supermajority? I simply don’t have any idea about where or whether that is even possible.
My own two cents (see above for an evaluation of my own “savvy”) is that response #2 is too bleak when it comes to Indiana: a colleague who teaches political science offered some analysis a while back that is more in line with opinion #1–the emptying out of Indiana’s rural regions has made it difficult to carve out districts that will continue to be safe for the GOP for more than the next election cycle (and perhaps not even then). Much will depend upon turnout–as I keep reminding folks, gerrymandering is based on turnout data from previous elections, and if Indiana’s Democrats (who are much more numerous than conventional wisdom recognizes) could field a really effective GOTV effort, it would definitely make a difference.
Of course, turning out the vote requires good candidates and good messaging…two elements we don’t yet have the ability to evaluate. (One of the most pernicious effects of gerrymandering is the difficulty in recruiting good candidates–after all, who wants to run on the “sure loser” ticket?)
We also don’t yet know the answer to the question posed in response #3.
Here in Indiana, volunteering for the campaign or for getting out the vote, if that’s possible, would make a big difference in places where the Democrats have a chance.
When the fundraising appeals come from elsewhere, it’s harder to separate out the claims of viability from reality. My own approach is to find a couple of campaigns that seem especially important, research them as best I can–what is the breakdown of Republicans and Democrats in the district? What about the polling? What do the pundits (who are frequently wrong) have to say about the race? Is the candidate’s website well-done? What about the messaging? The fundraising thus far? What about the campaign’s GOTV effort?
My conclusions tell me where to send my $25 or $50 or $100 checks–amounts I understand are unlikely to make much of a difference.
I don’t think my approach is very “strategic,” but it’s the best I can do…