Fifty years ago, Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party stormed the floor of the Democratic Convention to demand that people of color be given a meaningful place in the Democratic Party. Today, we are certainly closer to the realization of Fannie Lou’s vision, but is the Democratic Party really doing all it can to embrace and include people of color in its formula for winning elections? In PowerPAC+’s 2014 Fannie Lou Hamer Report, which will be publically released on June 25th, we examine Democratic Party spending and reveal the degree to which funds are being used to engage all sectors of the Party’s constituencies, especially voters of color.
Are We Putting Our Money Where Our Votes Are?
Approximately half of all funds raised by the Party over the past two cycles were used to hire consultants to engage voters. We wanted to know to what degree the Party is hiring the consultants best suited to reach the Party’s largest and fastest-growing constituencies, such as single women and diverse cultural groups. To answer this question, we reviewed Federal Elections Commission data on total Democratic spending in the 2010 and 2012 electoral cycles among the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). We also conducted interviews with the leadership of these committees. In addition to sharing our findings, the report will include a framework for ensuring that the Party acquires the right types of talent and expertise from consultants, and for setting goals for continual improvement.
You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You
Connecting with the largest and fastest-growing segments of Democratic voters is not only a question of equity and representation, it is also key to the bottom-line goal of winning elections. Like Molly Ivins said, “You got to dance with them what brung you,” and the numbers show that had voters of color and single White women not supported President Obama at rates close to twice as high as White men and actually turned out to cast ballots, a Democrat would not sit in the Oval Office today. The 2012 Presidential election was a clear manifestation of the power of a vast multiracial progressive voting base to win elections. However, the Democratic Party should not become complacent in thinking that their ability to turnout this vote is forever carved in stone. Party spending is an important indicator of Party priorities, and in an increasingly diverse electoral context, Democrats must prioritize the mobilization of the new multiracial majority: people of color and progressive Whites. One key way to achieve this is to hire the right talent, those consultants who are best equipped to design and implement programs that will engage voters from a broad range of backgrounds.
The 2014 Fannie Lou Hamer report is a critical first step in what we hope will become an ongoing self-evaluation process among members of the Democratic Party. Democrats have long been “talking the talk” on racial inclusion, and the time to “walk the walk” is long overdue. We want to see the Party’s resources being directed at the progressive, multiracial voters that will form the core of a winning coalition, in this coming year as well as through the election cycles of the coming decades.
The 2014 Fannie Lou Hamer Report will be publically released at PowerPac+’s Race Will Win the Race conference on June 25th in Washington, D.C. Findings of the report will be publically available at powerpacplus.org.
Julie Martinez Ortega, J.D. PhD, is the Senior Advisor of PowerPAC+.