Innovating and Inspiring the 2020 Vote

By Rahna Epting, Executive Director, MoveOn Political Action

Real talk: Lots of things are bad right now.

More than 210,000 people are dead from COVID-19. Nearly 20 million people are without jobs, with the economic damage done by the pandemic intensifying. Donald Trump and Senate Republicans are trying to subvert the will of voters and ram through a Supreme Court justice in an unprecedented process to pack the court in order to take away our health care. And rarely does a day go by when Donald Trump doesn’t use the bully pulpit of the presidency to undermine our democracy, spew hate, attack vulnerable communities and try to divide our nation.

But here is some more real talk: I’m more optimistic than I have been in a long time.

And here’s why. I’ve never seen MoveOn members, progressives, and voters from coast to coast more fired up, engaged and ready to take our country in a different direction.

As the executive director of MoveOn, one of our country’s largest organizations of activists and everyday people pushing us toward progress, I have a window into an untold story. A story that gives me hope even in these dark times. It is the story of why we are going to win and take this country back.

It is the story of the power of the people in this country.

And the power of the people is electric and through the roof this election cycle.

In the past few weeks alone, MoveOn members have:

  • Raised $4 million for endorsed candidates, including more than half a million dollars for Jaime Harrison’s campaign to unseat South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham alone.
  • Showed up in huge numbers to volunteer with our voter turnout program — more than 500,000 MoveOn members have committed to help turn out more than 1.5 million swing state residents they already know.
  • Seen historic engagement with our petition platform with over 1.5 million signatures demanding the next Supreme Court justice not be confirmed until after the inauguration.

And here is a secret we haven’t shared yet, since the administration’s atrocious mishandling around the COVID pandemic and accompanying economic fallout, we have tripled in membership.

MoveOn is three times as big as we were a year ago. We have three times the fire power to beat Donald Trump, wrestle control of the United States Senate away from Mitch McConnell and grow our majority in the House of Representatives.

And we’re harnessing the power of the people, the electric energy and engagement, and our larger membership to turn out the vote and win.

We are reaching out to millions of “high potential voters” — aka young people and people of color and others who don’t regularly vote — in key battleground states. We know turning out these voters will be a defining difference that will decide who the next President of the United States will be. MoveOn’s program will be the largest voter turnout effort in the country using a relational organizing approach, which leans into the finding that people are much more likely to be persuaded by people they already know than by strangers.

While the pandemic devastated our families and communities, it has also up-ended political engagement and GOTV efforts during one of the most crucial elections in U.S. history. People and organizations that used to knock doors and host house parties have had to pivot, moving to digital engagement and virtual events to reach voters.

Luckily MoveOn, an organization born at the cusp of the digital era with members everywhere, is uniquely suited for this moment. Pairing technology with principles of relational organizing, our million-person vote mobilizing effort means that by Election Day, MoveOn members will have reached three million other potential voters encouraging them to cast their ballots.

And here’s why mobilizing built on the power of relationships will change the game.

Data show that relational organizing, the heart of the program we have built this year, can be responsible for as much as a 12 percent increase in voter turnout.

In other words, people-powered organizing, relational organizing, is a game changer. And it is why I have so much hope.

The concept is simple, but the potential impact is massive. And MoveOn isn’t the only one doing it. Planned Parenthood, Rock the Vote, Vote.org, and candidate campaigns across the country are organizing their activist-volunteers to engage their friends in this most critical election.

We have the numbers. We have the people. We have the power. And we’re using all of it to turn the tide of this country for the better.

I know this is true because I know the real people making up our movement. The 500,000 MoveOn members sending texts and making phone calls, like Janet from Chicago, a daughter of hard-working immigrants. When she was a child, her father was killed when a bridge he and his team were demolishing collapsed on him and his co-worker. Before that day, he had tried, unsuccessfully, to convince his team members of the dangers of their project. No one would listen when the immigrant from Mexico raised his voice. Twenty years later, like millions of other everyday people rising up against the politics of division, hate and fear, Janet is raising her voice about our shared future and our shared possibility, and voters are listening.

People like Janet are our secret sauce. They are the untold story of this election. They are the people who will power us to victory. They are why I am optimistic. And they are why I am confident that we will win.

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