March 21, 2012
Clutch State Update
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Native american majority and plurality Arizona county map Majority-red Plurality-orange (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
PAC+ LAUNCHES THE NEW AMERICAN MAJORITY PAC
PAC+, a new national network of leaders focused on democratizing money and politics to give voice to America’s New Majority, launches today at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Recognizing that People of Color and progressive Whites are the New American Majority of people in the United States, PAC+ will combine the resources of its members and direct them to strategic races in states where the demographic revolution can change the political balance of power. In 2012, PAC+ is focusing on six strategic states — Texas, Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, Ohio, and California.
Led by the team that in 2007 created Vote Hope, the country’s first Democratic SuperPAC, PAC+ is an innovative approach to politics that weaves together demographic developments, technological tools, and network theory into a powerful force for change. “Currently a handful of billionaires are hijacking our democracy and advancing policies that are harmful to the majority of the American people. PAC+ is piloting a new model of SuperPAC that is focused on many donors, not mega-donors,” said Steve Phillips, Chairman of PAC+.
PAC+ is being launched by a National Board of over 70 community and political leaders in 16 states and is “powered by” PowerPAC.org, a social justice advocacy organization that coordinated the country’s first independent expenditure for Obama in 2007 and conducted a $10 million, 18 state electoral program targeting African American and Latino voters in key states. “Democrats spend tens of millions of dollars pursuing a strategy based on an outdated and inaccurate picture of the American electorate,” said Dr. Julie Martínez Ortega, President of PAC+. “The census data make clear that People of Color and progressive Whites are a majority of the U.S. population now, and our strategies need to shift accordingly,” added Dr. Martínez Ortega.
There are twelve million U.S. households of People of Color and progressive Whites with a household income of more than $100,000, and PAC+ is targeting less than 1% of that market, 100,000 people. “Many of us who benefited from the struggles that opened up the doors of higher education and corporate America are now in a position to give back,” said Maria Echaveste, Executive Committee member of the Democratic National Committee and the former Deputy Chief of Staff to President Clinton.
“Rather than get into a battle with the billionaires on the Right, major donors on the Left should invest their money in institutions and organizations that can unleash the power of the country’s demographic revolution, and PAC+ is just such an organization” said Susan Sandler, a philanthropist and private investor.
PAC+ will pool money from members across the country and direct those resources to strategic races in its six 2012 priority states. PAC+ is a federal political action committee and SuperPAC incubated by PowerPAC, a nonprofit advocacy and political organization. PowerPAC was organized to champion democracy and social justice in states and communities across the country and conducted the 2008 Obama independent expenditure campaign and a successful 2010 independent effort to help Kamala Harris win election as California’s Attorney General.
Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC
March 14, 2012
Clutch State Update
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By Kirk Clay
Analyzing Ohio’s Voters and Making Final Four Predictions
I have to admit, I love it when the March Madness season comes around. There is something about completing bracket sheets for both the Women’s and Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournaments and developing a strategy for my favorite teams to go all the way. The best part is identifying all of the opportunities for “cinderellas” or “underdogs” to win games they are not supposed to win.
As we get closer to the final four teams and realize that there are simply too many long shots for our favorite teams to survive the entire tournament, we scrap the entire bracket and start all over again. The trick is to gather as many statistics as possible and choose the best path forward. Sometimes, we have to follow our heart and go with our gut instincts.
Watching the excitement of the “First Four” match up in Dayton reminded me of Ohio’s recent “Big Four” electoral impact events. I began to ask myself, “what did Representatives Kaptur, Kucinich, Schmidt, and the “Underdog” Congressional hopeful Joyce Beatty all have in common?” They all were affected by Congress’ abysmal 10% approval rating.
Does the results of their Congressional bids reflect the voters’ gut instincts? Clearly, there is a sentiment that Washington’s obstructive behavior–like the current fiasco over judicial vacancies, the stalled transportation bill, and the assault on women’s healthcare–will not be rewarded in 2012.
As our economy continues to recover and U.S. manufacturing is becoming this years “Cinderella story,” voters are becoming hopeful. Toledo added about 1,800 manufacturing jobs last year and more are coming this year with General Motors and Chrysler committing to hiring over 1,600 people by 2013. Correspondingly, unemployment has fallen to 7.9% and manufacturing now comprises 18.3 percent of Ohio’s economy. We now see that middle and working-class voters are rejecting the old strategy of “wining by demonizing the opposite party on a bumper sticker.” In November, they may counter 2010’s dysfunctional hate wave with a wave of “economically coherent” leaders.
To win the heartland, politicians have to revive Franklin Roosevelt’s “Lunch Pail / Hard Hat Coalition.” In fact, a modern coalition which includes progressive Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Unions, and Young Voters is the best path forward.
Remember the 2006 elections when Governorships and Senate seats flipped to blue in Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Missouri? That was the “Lunch Pail Coalition” in action. A significant factor in the election outcomes were Voters of Color (VOC). For example, look at Ohio’s Cuyahoga County. That county, which includes Cleveland, was 12% of the vote share while VOC were 14% of the electorate.
This dynamic has played a significant role in Ohio where African American mayors have been elected in the seven major cities of Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, Youngstown, and Mansfield. Ohio voters have always been able to come together through a “Lunch Pail / Hard Hat Coalition” and elect candidates of color.
Looking forward to November 2012, I remain hopeful. Although the 2010 census data shows Ohio losing two Electoral College votes, cities like Columbus grew by 10.6% to 787,033. This increase gives Columbus more than 145,000 “key” Voters of Color. That means the Democratic Primary winner Joyce Beatty, who is the first African American Congressperson from central Ohio to make it to the primary, can win in November.
Beatty has already demonstrated the impact of the “Lunch Pail Coalition” in Ohio’s new 3rd Congressional District by mobilizing the second largest VOC voting block of Ohio’s sixteen congressional districts. Her strategy to embrace the heart of the coalition by targeting high performing VOC precincts like the Southside, Northeast, and Eastside gave her strong voter support in precincts like 35-B, 17-F and 28-E. What’s more, Beatty won all but one of the twenty highest-turnout precincts in the district and received 15,231 votes district wide.
As the big dance towards November begins, it’s important to keep in mind that middle and working-class voters are not interested in obstruction by Congress. Why should they? Ohio has increased its manufacturing jobs by about 4 percent since June, 2009. That’s 24,600 jobs for working families. Imagine how many more new jobs could be created if Congress worked together? As Beatty said on election night “our voice will be part of doing new things.” We want our political leaders to get something done.
I agree. Voters have little patience for bumper sticker solutions. We always root for the underdogs, even if that means voting for a slate of bracket busters. That’s popping the clutch.
Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC
December 29, 2011
Clutch State Update
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Redistricting Strategies Impact Local and National Elections
By Kirk Clay and Madura Wijewardena
State houses, city councils and many other institutions across America are now engaged in an endeavor that has occurred every decade since the nation’s founding — they will decide how electoral boundaries will be drawn based on where people live. These decisions will have a major impact on who is elected to public office.
This practice originates from the radical but simple plan set out in the U.S. Constitution which states that America will count every person every decade and use the results of that count to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. At that time, using a population count to determine representation was an unusual proposition because, according to Census Bureau Director Robert Groves, population counts had been used before to levy taxes or property or to pressure people for military service and not to ensure that the government had the consent of the governed.
This radical but simple plan originally had profound injustice embedded in it by stipulating that slaves held in bondage be counted as three-fifths of a person. In 1868, Congress ratified the 14th amendment, allowing former slaves to be counted as full-individuals, one result of the costly, bloody struggle of the Civil War.
Immediately following the Civil War, during Reconstruction, over 600 African Americans occupied various elected offices across the nation. With the end of that era came an almost century-long period of despair, which began when African Americans were habitually disenfranchised through Jim Crow practices, lynching, segregation, institutionalized racism, and incarceration discrepancies, to name a few. By 1965, only 300 African Americans occupied elected offices.
The enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 offered some hope of government with the consent of all those who are governed and not just a few, requiring states to draw legislative boundaries that would maximize minority voter empowerment. Like the 14th amendment, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was not an end in itself but a mere foothold in the unending struggle for justice.
As we approach that moment when electoral boundaries are redrawn, opportunities for regression are immense; and this moment requires renewed and continued vigilance.
With President Barack Obama, an African American, holding the highest office in the nation and many African Americans in elected offices across the nation, one may ask have the times not changed?
Times have changed six-fold. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1970 there were about 1,500 African American elected officials. In 2000 the number of African Americans in elected offices had reached about 9,000. Improvements must not be confused with underrepresentation. Based on the number of elected officials reported by the Census Bureau in 1992 – 513,200 – in 2000 African American elected officials were 2% of all elected officials. African Americans were 12.3 % of the population.
A civil rights redistricting strategy for 2011 must maximize African American voter empowerment by defending past improvements and by agitating to move the nation closer to the ideal of equal representation.
To achieve this, civil rights communities must focus on three things: 1) more local level action to set up long-term pathways; 2) the strategic use of census data to push for change; and 3) the strategic use of census data to reject aggressively the regression of the original mandates of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Civil rights communities must remember that redistricting is not just for apportioning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives it also impacts local-level elected offices. Significant shifts in the U.S. population will have an impact on African Americans’ role in the next presidential race. Eighteen states have gained or lost seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Electoral College votes that a candidate for president gets when he/she wins one of those states also will be increased or reduced by the numbers of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives that are gained or lost.
In order to maximize minority voter empowerment civil rights communities must take action at this critical juncture to make sure the intent of the Voting rights Act of 1965 is preserved.
Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC. Madura Wijewardena is Director of Research & Policy at the National Urban League Policy Institute