Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: I regret Trump’s win all the time

Nuts & Bolts—Inside a Democratic campaign: I regret Trump’s win all the time

Welcome to Nuts & Bolts, a guide to Democratic campaigns. I’ve helped write this series for years, using information from campaign managers, finance directors, field directors, trainers, and staff, responding to questions from Daily Kos Community and Staff members, and addressing issues that are sent to me via kosmail through Daily Kos.

Do you ever wake up screaming after dreaming Trump is back in office? There are more than a few Americans that likely join you in that thought. The damage done by the Trump administration is likely to last the rest of my lifetime, and I never thought that would be the world I would pass on to my children. Every time I see Donald Trump on TV or see the work of his minions, I regret, all the time, that not enough was done to make sure he never served a day in office. With another election facing us, this week, let’s talk about how we close out an election with some wins.

Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve

There are very few words in a campaign of regret, like would’ve, could’ve, should’ve. The things you wish you had done, the things that you could have done, and what you’d do now if you had information going back. Since no one has a time machine, the best you can do is to lower the number of potential regrets you are going to have in a campaign. The easiest way to lower regrets in a campaign is to make absolutely no assumptions about the outcome and to work until the very last possible moment as hard as you can to ensure victory. Too many campaigns believe they are solidly in the lead on a race and let off the gas. This is a very bad strategy. Instead, if you are running in a state house race or a congressional race and you are firmly in the lead, now may be the time for you to work even harder to turn out voters in your district. Your state house race may influence a state senate race. Your U.S. Congressional campaign may have an impact on a state-wide race for Governor or Senate. 

If you know your district is going to go solidly Democratic, or you face no opponent at all, don’t view it as a layup and a reason to coast into office. Instead, challenge your volunteers to break turnout records in support of your campaign from prior cycles. Set goals for your campaign that you won’t regret. At the end of the night, you will still have an elected Democratic official, but you might also contribute to the election of others, and isn’t that the end goal?

On the other side of the coin, if you feel as though your election is not going to succeed because of areas that you simply can’t win, can you close the margin from a prior cycle? If no Democratic candidate has managed to get over 30% in a district and you could gain an extra 10 points, closing the gap to 60-40 instead of 70-30, you can make all the difference in giving a state-wide candidate a chance to win. You also give young voters a reason to believe that change is, in fact, possible.

Voters deserve to feel important

Think about your closing strategy. The more your campaign talks as though things are set up and that you are going to prevail in an election or a feeling comes over your campaign that it is lost, the voters feel it. Instead, leave voters with the message that their vote sends a powerful message. The outcome of the election matters, but it also matters that they are able to express how they feel about your opponent, whether they are a challenger or an incumbent. They are voting in many cases to oppose those policies, to say: this is not OK for me. It does not matter how much time passes, they understand the harm these policies will create, and they will not, and should not, let things go just because a campaign seems to tell them they can and should be based on polling information.

Supreme Court decisions make many of us miss who we used to be 

We will frequently talk about the Dobbs decision, but other decisions made a significant impact as well. New York State Rifle and Pistol Association Inc. v. Burenas an example, overturned a series of state laws preventing people from carrying sidearms in public, returning us to a wild west atmosphere at a period in our country where school shootings and mass shootings still litter the news. From guns to the environment to Roe, this was a time period for the U.S. Supreme Court when many Americans are wondering what exactly happened to our country. There is just one answer: Donald J. Trump.

When we believe that things are just not worth our time and sit at home, or we don’t do everything we can to turn out those around us, we aren’t helping to keep our democracy safe for those that follow us. 

We’re done with waiting for signs.

No one is going to tell you or a campaign that now is the magic moment to turn out voters. That today is the moment you can donate time to a campaign or that tomorrow is the perfect moment to help your neighbor vote. My next-door neighbor, for example, is a double amputee. Should I wait until the last moment to help Betty vote? I have time later today I could take her down to early voting. What is the benefit to me of saying, “I can put this off until tomorrow”? What signal or event am I, or any campaign, waiting for? 

You cannot wait for a sign to pick the right moment to turn out your own voters. You will miss the opportunity; in my home state, many races were decided by a handful of votes. A few ended in a tie and were decided by a coin flip. How things could change by not waiting for a sign and making sure every single person, in every district, who was a Democratic voter turned out this election season.

No regrets. Just a commitment to make sure things do not happen again.

There is one easy answer to make sure you do not have regrets about an election. If you do everything possible, if a campaign believes at the end of the day they have spent everything they have, if they have used every resource and tool available to them, if volunteers commit to the outcome, then you don’t often regret elections. Your goal is always to win, to help Democratic candidates around you, and to set the bar for what happens next. Make that possible, and on election night, the memory of the election won’t haunt you.

Donald Trump and his MAGA allies came close to overthrowing our democracy on January 6, and they will try again if they win in 2022. The best thing you can do is to help get out the Democratic vote for the midterms, and we need everyone to do what they can. Click here to find all the volunteer opportunities available.

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