Here’s How We Build Democratic Power Across the Country
Right now, Democrats are a powerless majority. Democrats have won the popular vote in presidential elections since 2008, but have failed to turn those wins into gains at the local level. Since 2009, Democrats have lost over 1,000 state legislative seats. And while Republicans control the governor’s mansion and both houses of the state legislature in 26 states, Democrats do so in only 7.
To become a powerful majority to make the progressive change our country needs, Democrats need to rebuild power in the states. The map we’re launching today offers the first nationwide roadmap for rebuilding that state-level power.
What happens in state legislatures matters. Whether you care about education, health care, the environment and fighting climate change, student loan debt, gerrymandering, gun safety, or women’s rights, or all of the above and then some, the legislation that state legislators do — or don’t — enact affects us every single day. Policy choices made by state legislators have a huge impact.
What’s led to the Democratic deficit at the state legislative level? We’ve identified three primary reasons: (1) Democrats didn’t know where to focus or prioritize, (2) Democrats have been vastly outspent by Republicans, and (3) Democrats didn’t mobilize and empower activists to get involved in state legislative races. Those three gaps are the reason why we’ve created EveryDistrict because we believe our map, our crowdfunding approach that we’ll be launching soon, and our ability to mobilize activists will allow Democrats to win back critical state legislative seats.
In December, we launched our first target map, showing 162 districts across 16 states. We identified those districts as top priorities for Democrats in 2018, 2019, and 2020 because those districts give us a narrow path back to power by either winning back chambers or undoing Republican supermajorities in those states.
Today, we’re expanding on that work and launching the EveryDistrict Nationwide State Competitiveness Map that shows every state legislative district in the country, ranked on a partisan scale. That’s right — every state legislative district in the country. Now, you can find where you live on the map and see where the nearest competitive state legislative district to you is located.
We’ve built this map to solve the focus and prioritization problem and to make it easier for you to get involved in local races in your community, no matter where you live. We’re showing every district, even districts in red and blue places, because we think communities are better off with good, Democratic representation. Democratic values aren’t just for one part of the country. The Democratic Party should be as much about Missouri as it is Massachusetts. Our map shows how we start to rebuild the national Democratic movement.
To rank these seats, we developed something that is first-of-its kind. Political junkies are likely familiar with Cook PVI, the scoring system that assess the competitiveness of congressional districts across the country. Really big political junkies may even be familiar with the DPI, another scoring system. But no one before has developed a public competitiveness score for every state legislative district across the country and put it into an interactive map that anyone can use. You can view the full interactive map here.
When you look at the map, you’ll see districts marked in different colors with a number that we’ve developed called a “Legislative District Index” score. The more positive the number, the more Democratic leaning the district is. The more negative the number, the more Republican leaning the district is. Dark blue districts lean Democratic and are held by Democrats; dark red districts are held by Republicans and lean Republican. Light blue districts are held by Democrats but lean Republican. The yellow and pink districts are districts that we’ve identified as top pick up opportunities. The yellow districts are held by Republicans but lean Democratic, and the pink districts are held by Republicans but only lean slightly Republican. From our data analysis, we’ve identified 432 seats held by Republicans that lean Democratic, and 274 seats that only lean slightly Republican. That’s at least 706 seats that we can win back in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
This map gives us a strategy. But what do we need to do to win these seats? We aim to do three things: (1) compete in more places, (2) increase grassroots donors’ impact through peer-to-peer fundraising, and (3) implement strategies that build base turnout and broaden the composition of the Democratic base.
Most of the resources in Virginia concentrated on a small group of candidates in districts that reliably vote for Democrats in statewide and national elections. We helped Democrats compete in more places by supporting a wide range of candidates in 14 districts. Eleven of our candidates won, and their districts had LDI scores ranging from 14 to -3. In Republican-leaning seats with strong candidates, Democrats won. But we might have done even better if more resources has gone to slightly more Republican-leaning districts. For example, we lost the 84th District (-7) by 700 votes, despite being outspent 10-to-1. For Democrats to build sustainable majorities in state legislatures across the country, we have to compete everywhere. This map shows how we start doing that.
In Virginia, we worked with grassroots donors to maximize their fundraising potential by not just relying on what they could donate, but by cultivating their networks, email lists, and friend groups to turn them from small- to large-dollar donors. In the more crowded atmosphere of 2018, we’re going to need to continue to maximize grassroots donor resources to ensure state legislative candidates have the money they need to run strong campaigns. We’ll soon be releasing more tools to maximize the power of grassroots donors through peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be talking more about our strategy, and how you can get involved to directly support candidates in winnable districts that we’ve identified. Right now, we need your support to build resources like our map and to start laying the groundwork to win back these seats now. Your donation will give us critical funds to make that happen.
Then, sign up for our email list, and send us an email to let us know what you’re seeing on the ground in your community. The way we take back power is by building a movement of people working together to change the balance of power in state legislatures across the country. Join us.