Our system works when everyone gets a fair shot

Can you believe that the race for Governor in Florida now features a “Progressive” Person of Color! After this week’s gaff by his opponent, this should be a fascinating race considering Hispanics make up more than 12% of the Republican Party in Florida.

 

As I stated before, the fundamentals of this election mirror 2010 (with a different result). There is clear evidence that increased civic participation by communities of color can offset any conceivable lag in progressive voter turnout.

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Soon this election season will kick into full swing, and it is clear that there are a number of important states and districts in which People of Color (POC) may help to decide both primary and general election results. For example POC in Florida make up 29.5% of the Citizen Voting Age Population and 69% are registered to vote. The key is turnout. Remember even in a great “turnout year” like 2008, POC made up 28.9% of the vote share in the general election although more than a third did not vote (37.7%). Imagine what could happen in 2018 if we energize and turn out every eligible voter? Especially in places like Jacksonville, FL where there are over 200,000 “Key” POC voters.

 

Changes in congressional seats are at stake as well. We know that reapportionment gave Florida two congressional seats in 2010. Many voters have moved in and out of those districts for 8 years now. In fact, Florida may pick up one more seat therefore the race Governor will impact 2020 redistricting.

 

There is no doubt that there will be a number of heated congressional contests as well. In these races, pitting refurbished candidates against surging progressive candidates, the momentum is swinging progressive. Most of the focus this year will be on the fact that the Democrats need a bunch of seats to take back the house and the Republicans need a few seats to keep control of the Senate.

 

But there are other dynamics in these elections that may prove to be far more significant. Political experts often portray people of color as incidental as it relates to the broader sphere of American politics. Moreover, they seem to find it difficult to connect exceptional election results to evidence-based demographic trends. On one hand, we all recognize the fact that certain POC turnout levels will produce certain results. On the other hand, some of us miss the fact that those turnout levels in 2008 were connected to resources and political investment in POC communities.

 

The same holds true for other parts of the country. Young POC politicians are running for office in Georgia, Maryland, Texas, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, and a number of places in California but without adequate resources they will need to win..

 

There is no doubt that these candidates are more than capable of running competent campaigns. The truth is, they are beneficiaries of the civil rights movement and gained valuable tools from our forebears. That’s probably what led them to throw their hat in the ring to begin with. Their interests represent our collective guiding beliefs. Once in office, POC politicians will have the opportunity to build coalitions and work towards creating a collective social, cultural, and economic apparatus for people of color, communities of faith and young people.

 

But will their war chest benefit from the collective social economic advancements of the progressive community? Will they receive the support they need to defeat their opponents? If we care about diversity in political leadership, we shouldn’t just express our support through the vote. We should express our concern through monetary civic engagement. The fact is, if you invest political resources in a POC candidate this year, you will most likely have a positive return.

 

Thank you for your support in all that you do. Remember to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Instagram for latest updates and we’ll be in touch again soon with more from Push The Vote.

 

Sincerely,

 

Raven, Daya, Chuck, Kirk and the #PushTheVote Team

 

The promise of America is that every child will have the opportunity #PushTheVote

How does the Arizona primary results impact the people who most need economic and social justice? Young people are our future and the promise of America is that every child will have the opportunity to grow up to live a successful life. This is only possible when every child receives a quality education. It will take sound programs, schools, and policies that work and we have to vote to make this a reality.

I predict the fundamentals of this election will mirror 2010 but will have a different result. With adequate resources and a cooperative spirit, people of color, communities of faith and young people have the potential to have impact in states like Arizona and Georgia.

There is clear evidence that increased civic participation by communities of color can offset any conceivable lag in progressive voter turnout.  For example, according to a study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the African American share of the total vote in Illinois increased from 10 percent in 2006 to 19 percent in 2010.  Due to this strong turnout, a candidate who embraced progressive views became governor with only one-third of the white vote.

The same was true for Latinos in Colorado, and Nevada. In Nevada where Latinos represent 16% of the vote share, 69% voted for the progressive Senate candidate. This was an increase of 4% over the 2006 turnout. In Colorado, Latinos were an impressive 12% of the vote share and pushed the progressive candidate over the top.

I believe that with proper resources and civic momentum, people of color, communities of faith and young people can impact voter turnout rates this year. If we close the gaps between the populations that are eligible and likely voters, we will have a better chance of regaining our voice and enacting education policies that work. For example a progressive candidate could win Georgia with just 41% of the White vote and Arizona with just 37%.

The truth is that Americans have and can continue to come together to develop transformational relationships that dramatically impact civic engagement, education, culture, and economics. Young African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans have always participated in elections. However, their expanding share of the electorate has the potential to reinforce America’s steadfastness for a new all-inclusive brand of education.

Thank you for your support in all that you do. Remember to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Instagram for latest updates and we’ll be in touch again soon with more from Push The Vote.

Sincerely,

Raven, Daya, Chuck, Kirk and the #PushTheVote Team

A Balanced Viable Plan to Create Opportunity for All

 

This is a multi-entry blog about the American Rising Electorate, authored by a Sr. Advisor, Analyst, and Strategist (#PoppingTheCLUTCH).

By Kirk Clay

Evidence based civic engagement is a fairly nascent field. In fact, up until 20 years ago what people now think of as civic engagement for “people of color” was characterized naively as just minority outreach. Therefore, it’s no wonder that many organizations and efforts struggle to identify what an effective civic engagement plan is and by what method to execute one successfully. Above the CloudsFirst, it’s tough to pinpoint a distinct all-encompassing explanation of what civic engagement is. Second, it’s equally as difficult to find an all-inclusive formula for putting together a viable program. Lastly, the moment an approach is successful it’s dismissed as predictable or characterized as a chance occurrence so we can’t learn anything new from those experiences.

This line of thinking is incorrect. On the contrary, civic engagement is the act of balancing priorities and tactics while executing an intentional plan in places where you intend to score a victory. An effort can give rise to a “balanced viable plan” by designing and cherry-picking a unique suite of tactics to capture the attention of people who are ready to take action. As a result, true civic engagement calls for connecting and supporting clusters of people who have broad networks of their own.

Additionally, true civic engagement calls for assembling platforms of engagement around those communities of shared interests. In a nutshell, civic engagement is opportunity. In fact, true civic engagement is a multicultural effort that intentionally creates value for those communities in an attempt to generate opportunity for all involved.

Creating opportunity is a difficult task. The concept of “opportunity” itself may run counter to an organization’s short term aspirations. From our stand point, a great deal of organizations and efforts are too unintentional in creating opportunity when creating their plans. They start with good intentions and after a few bumps in the road or after a small set back they lose conviction. Furthermore, the leader of an effort may become overwhelmed with “urgent but not important” issues and set aside what’s really important for the organization. Sometimes it seems as though these leaders are awe-struck when presented with a flurry small short-term fires and respond by abandoning thoughtful long-term opportunity building work.

Too many organizations and efforts deal with this problem by using “ineffectual methods” as a substitute for creating opportunity, For example, when they first set out to engage communities of color they define civic engagement as an aspiration. Aspirations are the building blocks of a good civic engagement plan however that’s not all there is. Then the organization doesn’t put forward a “viable model” or of a clear path forward. If they do put forward a vision it’s usually an outline and it does not take into account the aspirations of the diverse communities and geographies the organization intends to score a victory with. Meanwhile, there certainly is not enough attention paid to what creates opportunity for those communities of interest.

Let’s look at how this plays out in an organization with a goal of increasing people of color civic representation.

  • Immediately following the Civil War over 600 African Americans occupied various elected offices across the nation.
  • By 1965, only 300 African Americans occupied elected offices.
  • 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.

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. Overall, that number has declined in most categories for every election since 2000.

This kind of analysis is critical for connecting with communities of color. What these communities want and need is an opportunity to grow. To tap into the power of the “Rising American Electorate” you have to have a comprehensive strategy that spells out everything your organization will do to create that opportunity and where you will do it. A balanced viable plan can be the foundation of a successful effort if it’s rooted in evidence based data.

The demographics in America are changing so rapidly that it’s unfeasible to assume that business as usual will win the day. Instead, it’s the organizations and leaders that learn to embrace these changes that will succeed. Also, they will be the best equipped to capitalize on new opportunities for engaging communities that share the same interests.

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Kirk Clay is a partner at Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Opportunities to Effect Change

Opportunities to Effect Change

This is a multi-entry blog about the American Rising Electorate, authored by a Sr. Advisor, Analyst, and Strategist (#PoppingTheCLUTCH).

Kirk Clay Pic

In the end, this is a blog about opportunities, as well as strategies for engaging “communities that share the same interests” and ways to encourage them to become a part of the solution through donations, volunteering, social, academic, and civic engagement. Although this blog pulls from my experiences in the organizations listed below, in no way does that render our model ineffective for other non-profits, charitable institutions, businesses, government agencies, or for-profit institutions. Truthfully, I’ve witnessed these strategies effectively applied in just about every organization and effort conceivable. I learned these strategies while working for the institutions listed below and each provided me a unique set of issues, demographics, geographies, and resources to pull from.

 

Within these organizations we will explore the nuances of “non-ethnic” vs “authentic” engagement tactics and learn if they work or not. We believe the problem a current collaborative faces is that they’re one-dimensional in their approach. Their work is based on an assumption that “non-ethnic” civic behavior is the standard. Therefore, the behavior of people of color is viewed as “deviant” versus being understood as behavior rooted in and reflective of a different set of values, beliefs, experiences and world view.

 

One problem with this approach is that we fail to recognize opportunities to understand the complex nature of political behavior by people of color. This makes it difficult to learn from experiences that vary from the so-called standard and that makes it almost impossible to put into practice policies that will empower the progressive community to move forward.  Instead, we waste time on forcing a square block into a round hole. We direct resources to develop programs, services, methods and frameworks that ultimately do not deliver the desired outcome and do not develop leaders of color who speak the language of the desired voter. Our approach is different and the blog that I have chosen to write will be rooted in our experiences and presented within that context.

 

Before yours truly arrived in this town, I had no idea that I would become a Sr. Advisor, Analyst or a Strategist. In fact, I came to Washington more than 20 years ago as an intern in the office of Presidential Personnel. Functioning as an intern at the White House not only expanded my capabilities but also set in motion a series of experiences that laid the foundation for what would become the opportunity of a lifetime. As a result of that opportunity I became a Sr. Advisor for PowerPAC+ where I was groomed to be a political tactician. While there, we perfected our work to transform the nescient “Rising American Electorate” to what is now a driver of American politics. This blog gives an account of that conversion and in what way our approach shaped it.

 

Our methodology was cultivated by way of my personal journey, from the White House, People For the American Way, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation to Common Cause, the NAACP, A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Tavis Smiley Foundation, Maryland Leads and PowerPac+. The tactics learned in these organizations consequently develop into a point of reference for most of our handiwork through the decade. Throughout my time in Washington, I’ve toiled and tinkered with many strategies, methods, and systems to create a structure to hang our ideas on while we refine and develop innovative ways to edify the models. Within PowerPAC+, there were five people in particular who were significant in advancing these ideas. At the NAACP there were dozens of leaders, members, activists, unit leaders, state presidents, and board members — including individuals whose anecdotes are recounted later in this blog. Note that each and every one played an important part, especially the board of directors for the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and people I regard as friends, they were all ground-breaking innovators who molded these theories and efforts. It is our aspiration that over the course of the next several months you will find something in our learning to help you connect with the information and resources you need to support and further your mission.

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Kirk Clay is a partner at Capitol View Advisors a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Expanding Outreach To Alleviate Poverty in America #EP123Vote

By Kirk Clay

 

Have we spent too many years overlooking the real challenges of our economy? Are there still too many of uMLK Jr.s living from paycheck to paycheck? After years of cautious and prudent federal spending, the economy is finally turning the corner yet many of America’s families are more financially insecure now than their upper income counterparts.

 

Yes the federal debt has decreased significantly and many of us are beginning to recover from the great recession.  However a recent Pew Poll demonstrates that we are also experiencing wealth inequality. We now see a gulf of financial experiences developing between upper income and lower income Americans. Moreover, the enormous difference in net worth for White, Black, and Latino households is becoming a bellwether for income inequality. What’s shocking is that the impact of this financial insecurity is felt in white working class families as well as lower income families of color. As demonstrated in a recent Pew Poll:

  • People of Color and women make up over 61% of the financially insecure community — about 48% are white non-Hispanic.
  • Unmarried women represent over 42% of the community.
  • Just under 53% of this community is unemployed — 20% employed part-time.

Today, there are many efforts underway aimed at addressing important issues that impact financially insecure communities–minimum wage, access to quality education, housing, healthcare, and food security. Ironically, in order to participate in these transactional experiences an individual needs to have a sense of financial security. This leaves “good” hard work people living on the margins of society and grasping for a ladder of hope and opportunity. It’s hard to take advantage of efforts centered on livable wages, access to education and housing when you don’t have bus fare or even worse the buses are not operating in your community.

 

This leads me to ponder about the old adage– “abandoned voters disengage.” How does this dynamic play out in their lives?  What impact does it have on our democracy, in particular civic engagement where regardless of one’s zip code and bank account each citizen has a vote. What is the correlation between income inequality and voting—one of the most powerful ways to have impact?

 

The midterm elections are a good place find answers. Wealthier, older men who are less racially diverse make up a large portion of the midterm electorate.  For example, in the 2014 midterm, only 20% of the least financially secure citizens voted.  Here are additional data points to consider:

  • Last year, over 93% of the financially well-off community said they were registered to vote – compared to less than 55% of the least financially secure.
  • Less than 31% of the least financially secure cast a ballot in the 2010 midterm elections – compared to more than 68% of the financially well-off.
  • Over 33% of the least financially secure community articulated “no choice” in candidates regardless of party affiliation – a clear sign of apathy.

 

We all know that democracy works best when everyone has a voice and their values are represented.  After all, most voters support candidates that reflect their interests. The problem for our democracy is that candidates inclined to create policies that “promote and enforce giving everyone a fair shot” will not have a fair shot if their voters stay home on Election Day. This creates an unbalanced political system that gives the financially “well-off” an unfair advantage over financially insecure Americans.

 

I believe we are in the midst of a watershed moment. There are many organizations working hard to build social, political, and financial capital for people living at or below the poverty line. Although they have enormous challenges to face in upcoming years they must do more to help our neighbors engage. As the next decade approaches, it’s important to keep in mind that our ultimate objective should be to create a nation where everyone in need of assistance receives it and leads a life of respect, dignity and opportunity. Let’s try to alleviate poverty in America.

 

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Kirk Clay, Senior Advisor

#GA123: Politicians Should Be About More Than Impeachment –  Freedom Summer ‘64 to Freedom Fall ‘14

By Kirk Clay

If you read the most popular headlines today, you would think that these are unequivocally the worst of times in America. They say that Congress wants to impeach the President of the United States. They say that the economy has stalled and Americans who work hard and play by the rules don’t have an opportunity to live the American4.3 dream. They say that our immigration system is broken and that the children of undocumented immigrants should be punished for what their parents did years ago. They say that voters of color have an unjust and disproportionate influence on the political system.
These headlines only tell part of the story. The backstory is far more complicated. For example, our economy has grown every month for the last five years. Unemployment is on the decline and has reached its lowest level in eight years. Added to that, our attitude towards comprehensive immigration reform has shifted to the point that now three fourths of the electorate believes that “deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States is unrealistic.” Lastly, most every American wants voting to be a basic right – like the freedom of speech.

So why doesn’t it feel like we’re making progress? Why are we so ready to believe the headlines? Sure, our economy is doing well but some of us are still nervous about a possible downturn — although there are no signs indicating that will happen. Is it that many of the jobs being created are low wage service sector jobs or tech jobs that involve cutting-edge skills? Is it because these are not the kinds of jobs that people living in poverty or losing unemployment insurance for the first time are positioned to take advantage of?

There has been a lack of progress in comprehensive immigration reform as well. Yes, a bill has passed the Senate and President Barack Obama says he would sign it but the bill has not made it to his desk. In fact, this policy may never be introduced in the House of Representatives for a vote. If it does the bill must also survive a grueling amendment process that is full of “poison pills” and middle-of-the-road compromises.

 

While politicians find it hard get anything done and continue to stall progress, deportations are at historic levels. In fact, the Congress member who calls for more boarder security seems to be really looking for an excuse to do nothing. Sure, the federal government has the obligation to address our boarder issues and crackdown on companies that knowingly break the law but we shouldn’t discriminate against any student that has been here for years, stayed out of trouble, and attends our schools.

Tying all of this together is our democracy and the freedom to vote. Politicians are now introducing policies that would manipulate election laws resulting in seniors and veterans – as well as people of color – suddenly not being able to vote.

 

In fact, African Americans, Latinos and young Whites are purported to be less likely than others to vote in midterm elections. While the current polling models that political experts use are barely an indicator for accurately measuring voter intensity for this demographic, we have to acknowledge their conclusions. They point to a trend that suggests voter turnout in these communities will decrease 3-5% every midterm election. If they’re correct, that would suggest a new negative dynamic in politics – one of our most fundamental freedoms is being inhibited.

The truth is that without the freedom to vote, we don’t have a democracy. In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Right Act into law as an attempt to address widespread racial discrimination. Section 5 of the Act encompassed a preclearance provision that required jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to obtain permission from the District of Columbia U.S. District Court or the U.S. Attorney General before enacting changes to their voting systems.

 

In 2013, the United States Supreme Court struck down Section 4b of the law – the formula that determines which governments and locations are tied to pre-clearance. Following the Shelby decision, there are now deep concerns about the impact newly passed voting laws will have on access to the ballot box for all Americans.  Especially laws related to early voting and voter identification.

These post-Shelby voter laws and other laws will greatly impact voter turnout for voters of color, women and young people.  This is particularly troubling when combined with the demographic and political transformation occurring all over America.  Not only will these laws affect turnout potential, they dilute the whole premise of our democracy where voting is intended to be the voice of the people.

 

Let’s look at Georgia for example, a state which is experiencing an extraordinary demographic and political shift.  Its voter identification law that was signed in 2005 by Governor Sonny Perdue is one of the harshest.  It requires that everyone voting in person has to have a state-issued photo ID for their ballot to count.

 

This law has a significant destabilizing impact on voters. Now that voters of color make up 33% of Georgia’s registered voters (30% Black, 2% Latino, and 1% Asian) this law is reminiscent to a “Jim Crow-era” act. People of color’s vote share grew from 32% in 2008 to 37% for the first time ever and Latinos will account for 52% of Georgia’s new eligible voters in 2016.

Laws like these only hurt democracy by slowing down the voting process. If we continue to overlook the real challenges of our economy, or neglect the people that our immigration laws impact, things will only deteriorate and foster an atmosphere of additional conundrums – saddling our children and grandchildren with an unfair burden of our creation.
Politicians should be about more than impeachment.  They should pass laws to fix these problems. Let’s get active. #GA123

 

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Kirk Clay, Senior Advisor

The Children of Freedom Summer 1964 Will Soon Be Leaders of Freedom Fall 2014 #GA123

By Kirk Clay

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The seeds planted 50 years ago in Mississippi during Freedom Summer are in full bloom. The children of 1964 — who are now leaders — are positioned to energize this generation of young voters of color and progressive voters for a historic turnout in the midterm election.

By taking advantage of 21st Century demographic data to identify, micro-target and energize voters they can usher in the Freedom Fall of 2014 to make a difference in city halls, state capitols and the U.S. Congress.

The reasons that this year’s Freedom Summer activists will be Freedom Fall Game Changers are centered on three actions known as “Get Active 1, 2, 3.”  This cross-platform effort focuses on the following actions:

  1. Register to vote
  2. Vote Early
  3. Volunteer on Election Day to help others vote.

Background: The stakes are high.  All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, over 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate, over 35 state and territorial governorships, over 45 state legislatures, numerous state and local races, as well as various ballot initiatives will be contested.

Yet following the Shelby decision and the new voter ID laws that were passed, there is great concern about the impact that these attacks will have on access to the ballot box for voters who have historically been underrepresented. Especially for voters of color, women, youth, the elderly and voters with disabilities.

Case: Take Ohio for example where the Secretary of State has constantly pushed for policies that restrict the voting options that are the most popular and effective for people of color. This includes early voting, weekend voting, and same day voter registration.

Impact on Election 2014: People of color “vote early” twice the rate of other voters and regularly participate in “Take Your Soul to the Poll” early vote programs on weekends. These strategies energized voters of color and progressives in past elections — making the difference in races for Governor and Senate.

Arguably, the new restrictive voting laws in places like Ohio will affect the voters that had the most impact — Cuyahoga County. In the 2006 midterm, voters from that county represented 12% of the vote share and voters of color made up 14% of the electorate.

The Political Landscape: Concerned about the impact that the Shelby decision will have on access to the ballot box this fall, several civil, human and women rights organizations of all types from all over the country came together to power up for the midterm election.

On July 2, which was the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act, these organizations embraced the first step of the “Get Active” framework and launched a national, non-partisan Power Check Day to encourage voters to verify their voting status. By embracing the cross-platform social media model, they also spoke out on issues like voting rights, women’s health, immigration, workers’ rights, marriage equality, health care, public education and other high-priority issues.  They even posted “selfies” holding up three fingers for the three steps in Get Active.

Participating organizations included the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, American Association of University Women, Election Protection, American Federation of Teachers, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund, United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, Unidad Solutions, Rock the Vote, Long Distance Voter, The Leadership Conference, and Get Active 123.

Here are the results: The hashtag #GA123 was the centerpiece of Power Check, which recorded 5,035,716 impacts on July 2 with a reach of 1,562,408 and 3,556 followers per contributor. #GA123 tweets were retweeted 406 times. For the May 20th primary election day the hashtag was also used by voters in many states, generating 244,735 impressions with a reach of 120,903. On that day we recorded 67 tweets retweeted 26 times and 3,556 followers per contributor.

Wrap-up: What does the recent turnout for the primaries and participation in the July 2 Power Check Day say about civic participation 50 years later following the Freedom Summer?  Is there a way to keep voters of color and progressive voter turnout consistent?  Yes!  We have to honor the past and activate the future.

Our goal should be to increase the civic participation rate of voters of color by 3-5% for the 2014 midterm election. We can do this by tapping the power and reach of the progressive community’s capacity to mobilize voters who have historically been underrepresented at the polls.  We have to invest in early vote efforts that target voters who are at risk of being disenfranchised.

The truth is that we have come a long way since 1964.  In order for the children of Freedom Summer 1964 to be the leaders of Freedom Fall 2014 we must all have the courage to organize for our future–NOW.

 

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Kirk Clay, Senior Advisor – PowerPAC