Is the Democratic Party Establishment Irrelevant?

In spite of the continuing series of atrocities known as the “Trump Administration,” the Democrats are failing to capitalize on what ought to be a sure-fire fundraising strategy — defeat Trump. The DNC is lagging far behind in fundraising, as usual.

Over the first six months of 2017, the Republican National Committee pulled in $75 million—nearly twice as much money as the Democratic National Committee, which raised $38 million. The predicament isn’t simply that there is a funding gap between the parties; it’s what kind of money they attract. Republicans have quietly taken a decisive edge over Democrats when it comes to small-dollar fundraising.

During that same six-month time span, the RNC raised $33 million in small contributions—money from people who donate $200 or less over an election cycle—while that same class of donors gave the DNC just $21 million.

See also Grassroots Democrats are more energized than ever — but DNC fundraising is a massive fail and The Democratic National Committee’s abysmal fundraising.

However, this seems primarily to be a DNC problem. People are giving lots of money to Democratic candidates.

At the state level, anti-Trump enthusiasm has certainly been made manifest. In a study released last month by the Brookings Institution, researchers found record numbers of Democratic candidates running for seats in the House of Representatives. No cycle has had anywhere near the number of aspiring candidates from one party in recent history. …

… Among party committees established to raise money for candidates, Democrats are ahead of their GOP rivals as well, although not by such a lopsided margin. According to Federal Election Commission data, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s fundraising apparatus for House candidates, has brought in slightly more money so far than its Republican equivalent. Ditto for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. ActBlue, a third-party fundraising site, raised $27.6 million in July, compared to $13.7 million in the same month in 2015, and $5.9 million in 2013. Jon Ossoff, the losing Democratic nominee in a recent Georgia special election, brought in a record-breaking $30 million all by himself.

Of course, Ossoff lost, and a lot of people grumbled that there were other special elections the Dems might have won if the DCCC had lavished half the resources and attention they gave to the safe, centist Ossoff. So that’s not necessarily a reassuring example.

But note that it says ActBlue raised $27.6 million in July. Compare and contrast:

The DNC raised just $3.8 million in July, compared to the $10.2 million raised by the RNC in the same month. While the GOP has no debt, the DNC added slightly to its debt in July, which now sits at $3.4 million.

ActBlue, of course, is a website that makes it easy for people to give money to particular candidates. So people really do care about Democratic candidates; they just don’t care about the DNC.

It doesn’t help that the DNC does stupid fundraising, such as sending out a mailer that looks like a bill, stamped “final notice.”

The DNC, taking a page from the dark mirror universe version of How To Do Politics, is sending out mail that looks nothing like student debt collectors shaking down graduates for their spare change. Surely, this will win the hearts of millennials.

At the same time, the DNC was emailing people complaining about Trump’s “empty promise” to build the wall. Um, DNC — we don’t want the wall.

I’ve long tuned out the DNC’s incessant promises to “fight” for me, since they don’t. I get multiple emails every week from them about how awful Trump is and how we have to elect Democrats to “fight back.” But sending money to the DNC seems about as stupid as burying it in the backyard with a bag of Miracle-Gro.

The real energy right now is with grassroots activists working outside the Democratic Party.

The Indivisible movement – which now counts more than 6,000 chapters nationwide – is the centerpiece of a robust new grassroots machinery that has arisen to confront the crisis of the Trump presidency. Rivaling anything accomplished by the Tea Party, the passionate activism of hundreds of thousands of progressives has already achieved the impossible in Washington, D.C. – overwhelming Republican control of Congress and the presidency to stymie the repeal of Obamacare.


Looking ahead, Democratic Party leaders are determined to ride this political uprising to victory in the House in 2018. But neither the DNC nor the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have shown the technological savvy or comfort with grassroots engagement to create a platform for this activism within the party itself. Indeed, for many of the activists on the ground, the current Democratic Party appears less a vehicle for change than an obstacle to it.

The Dems’ fundraising problem is being blamed on the rift between the establishment-Clinton wing of the party and the Sanders-activist voter base, and people are being called on to “unify.” But the establishment is still in charge of the Democratic Party itself, and they’ve demonstrated time and time again they don’t want to unify. They want the activists to shut up and be docile little ATM machines from which the DNC can extract money but otherwise ignore. Even so, the activists are working to elect Democrats, and some might be willing to work with the party establishment if the party establishment could be worked with. But it isn’t.

One would think their fundraising problem would be a flashing warning sign to the Dem establishment that, just maybe, they need to change. But I’m not holding my breath.