By DA Managing Director Julie Kohler, Black Civic Engagement Fund Director Cietta Kiandoli, Youth Engagement Fund Director Austin Belali, and Latino Engagement Fund Consultant Eddy Morales
Although there is much about the 2016 election that is defying conventional wisdom, we know some things for sure, namely that the 2016 electorate will be the most diverse in history, with nearly 1 in 3 voters being a person of color. In many of the DA’s target states, the New American Majority will determine election outcomes.
A Republican presidential frontrunner hurling insults at Latinos and women creates opportunities for progressive victories this fall, but fear and disgust are not enough to drive wins, up and down the ballot. Strong voter engagement requires investment – and the best investments are with organizations that have a consistent presence in Black, Latino, Millennial/Generation Z, and other New American Majority communities, working day in and day out to improve lives, though year round voter engagement and issue advocacy work.
These are precisely the investments that the New American Majority Funds – individually and collectively – make, and the work that we help to support.
The words we use to describe our work – “base-building,” “capacity building,” “building independent political power” – mean something. They mean that in the wake of fatal police shootings, communities are poised to respond, heightening public awareness of harsh policing and demanding changes, like body cameras, community oversight boards, and an increase in the numbers of officers of color. They mean that elected officials, including District Attorneys, are held accountable – and in the case of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, voted out of office – when they criminalize Black people and fail to prosecute police officers for killing Black citizens.
They mean that when government poisons the water of their state’s most impoverished residents of color, groups immediately spring into action, securing health care and other support services to affected families and demanding that the federal government restore funding for the CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention and appoint a federal prosecutor to investigate the governor.
The mean that undocumented immigrants get tuition equity and a path to the education they deserve, as they have in 20 states thanks to smart Latino and youth organizing, and young people’s voices are at the forefront – on campuses, in statehouses, and in communities – in emerging campaigns for debt-free higher education.
Since last fall, the NAM Funds have invested approximately $2 million, collectively, into the leading organizing groups that will be working to turn out Black, Latino and young Americans in the election and to advance the issues that are most important to their respective constituencies. We have invested in research – conducting a large-scale Latino messaging research project that will yield state-level reports with actionable messaging and targeting recommendations for field staff leadership and supporting the creation of the first-ever Youth Significance Database, data-based rankings of the states and districts where young voters can have a disproportionately high impact on the 2016 Presidential and Congressional elections. And we have invested in leadership development, including a recent “Advanced Campaign Management Training” (in conjunction with Wellstone Action) for Latino/a leaders.
Although each of our funds has a strong track record on which we can build, our efforts at alignment are just beginning. Going forward, not only will we work to strengthen our individual work, we will explore what we can do together under the broader umbrella of the New American Majority Fund – how we can win elections on a coordinated policy agenda and advance voting rights, economic justice, climate change, and criminal justice reform through multi-racial community organizing; how we can invest jointly in research and experimentation that strengthens all of our work.
And most importantly, to truly realize our vision of a well-organized New American Majority fully exercising its political power, we raise new resources and broaden our agenda, build and strengthen similar infrastructure among Asian/Pacific Islanders, the white working class, women, and LGBT Americans.
We look forward to talking with you next week about what more we can accomplish together.