PowerPAC+ National Conference

"Race Will Win the Race: The Progressive Path to Victory" #WINin2014

June 25, 2014 - Washington, D.C.

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Just blocks from the White House, a standing-room-only crowd turned out to welcome us to Washington, D.C. PowerPAC+ Chair Steve Phillips grounded the importance of the conference by recalling the previous day’s primary results in Mississippi and the one year anniversary of Wendy Davis’ inspiring filibuster in Texas. In Steve’s words: “The time really is right for a conversation on race in U.S. politics.”

Opening remarks concluded with Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge asserting that a frank discussion of race in politics was “long overdue” while Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden challenged the progressive community to think beyond winning elections to implementing real change for the multiracial majority.

“Demographics are not destiny if we don’t actually deliver results.” - Neera Tanden, President, Center for American Progress

As part of the conference's efforts to weave social media into the day's events, PowerPAC+ Senior Vice President Aimee Allison asked invitees to take a moment and make a new friend at the conference, take a selfie with them, and post their selfie using the official conference hashtag #WINin2014. To view social media highlights from the conference, click here.

After everyone made a new friend, the first panel delved into PowerPAC+’s South by Southwest strategy, a strategy that ensures we can win in 2014, 2016 and beyond. With 26 states with populations of at least 19% people of color, many in the South and Southwest, voter engagement amongst communities of color is often low. A panel of powerful progressive leaders from California, Georgia, and Texas spoke passionately about working at the community, door-to-door level to engage voters of color. They insisted that the only way to build a lasting progressive coalition is to hold officials accountable for driving policy change that actually improves voters’ everyday lives. 

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“We have a drop-off from the presidential year of more than 600,000 voters. 600,000 people who just stay home, and that’s our fault...we have great conversations about registrations, we have great conversations about turnout, but what we do not talk about is what we’re supposed to do the day after.” - Stacey Abrams, Georgia House Minority Leader

“It’s the day that candidates look like the voters on the other side of the door when you start seeing things change.” - Trey Martinez Fischer, Texas State Representative and Mexican American Legislative Caucus Chair

The morning concluded with the unveiling of the results of PowerPAC+’s 2014 Fannie Lou Hamer Report, a first-of-its kind audit of spending priorities within the Democratic Party. Conducted by PowerPAC+ Senior Advisor, Dr. Julie Martinez Ortega, the report revealed that only 2.6% of the dollars disbursed by major Democratic funding institutions between 2010 and 2012 went to firms owned by people of color or with people of color in principal positions. Calling the lack of diversity in Democratic consultant firms, “embarrassing, disappointing, and shocking," Steve urged the Democratic Party not to be lulled into complacency by the election of the first black President, but to instead work actively to promote diversity at every level of party operations. Sign our petition and tell the Democrats to diversify their hiring. 

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After a short video highlighting the work of PowerPAC+’s sister organization, PowerPAC.org, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker gave the highly-anticipated luncheon address. Cory had the audience energized from his very first words by sharing a powerful quote from Alice Walker: “The most common way people give up their power is by not realizing they have it in the first place.” From there, Cory shared words of wisdom passed down from his own mentors in leadership, and focused on the need for leaders who act as “forces of righteous love” to change the inequalities we face in education, economic opportunity and criminal justice.

“You have to love people, not just legislate,” -New Jersey Senator Cory Booker

Following Cory's remarks, PowerPAC+ board member Subodh Chandra took the stage to report on voter suppression “games” being played in Ohio. Subodh urged the audience to support efforts to educate young voters about the importance of civic participation. While PowerPac.org Executive Director Andy Wong provided strong demographic evidence illustrating the growing impact of the multiracial majority in America. Andy shared that voters of color are the only demographic demonstrating increased voter turnout, but that the dominant research and outreach strategies are “out of touch,” with this new electoral reality.

“How we invest our money is a critical piece of this puzzle.” - Andy Wong, Executive Director, PowerPac.org

IMG_8231.JPG The third and final panel went beyond electoral victory to the endgame of truly progressive leaders: the opportunity to enact policy with the power to improve lives. Our progressive policy experts discussed the issues of poverty, criminal justice, immigration reform, and educational equity that matter most to communities of color, and provided insight into the types of policies that would make meaningful change for these communities.

“Leadership is not winning. Leadership is enacting policies.” -Alida Garcia, former National Latino Vote Deputy Director, Obama for America

Steve Phillips provided closing remarks for a meaningful day of reflection and priority setting, and conference attendees headed to a reception at the National Press Club to mix, mingle, and share their thoughts on the future of American politics in a multiracial age.

“I really do believe that we are entering a new historical era - that if we recognize our majority, great and profound things are possible.” - Steve Phillips

Click here to view conference photos.         

Click here to view conference social media highlights. 

Download the conference program. 

Download conference speakers' bios.

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