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Why your vote (and donation) matters with Brian Derrick 🇺🇸
The Instagram-famous Democratic political strategist helps demystify politics
✨ An important new episode is out now! ✨
I think we can all agree that politics can be really f*cking confusing. So with Election Day coming up on November 8 in the United States, I asked Brian Derrick to come to the rescue!
TL;DR: This episode answers a lot of questions many of us have about the democratic process, and how to actually make a difference in government and society as an individual. If you listen, you will learn a lot—I promise! AND you might even feel more hopeful and empowered going into this Election Day, and beyond.
Figuring out who to vote for, where and when to donate, and why it all matters can feel overwhelming and demoralizing. But Democratic political strategist Brian Derrick wants to help change that.
You may know Brian from Instagram, where he demystifies upcoming political races in short videos, often with the aid of white boards and easy-to-read stats. Brian previously worked for New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New Jersey Congresswoman Mikie Sherill, and as the campaign manager for New York City Council candidate Marti Gould Cummings. And last year Brian founded Oath, a site that helps Democrats know which candidate to donate to so their dollars will make the most impact, narrowed down by key issues or critical upcoming elections.
Brian wants Democrats to stop rage-donating—or donating many millions of dollars to Democratic candidates running against Republican candidates who will almost certainly win anyways, such as Mitch McConnell and Marjorie Taylor Greene—and start strategically donating to key candidates early on in the election cycle.
In our conversation I ask Brian a lot of my burning political questions. Here are just a few of his illuminating answers (with relevant timestamps if you’d like to check out his full quote on the podcast):
What do Democrats need to know and do to influence real change in our nation? (47:36)
“You need to be thinking much longer term, and the graver the threat and the greater the issue, the longer term you have to prepare for. And you have to accept that it could take years, or over a decade for us to build a pro-abortion access majority that can pass a law to correct that. I'm asking for people to engage and to stay engaged. It's about persistence. Because if you're playing a four-year strategy, and the Republicans are down to wait you out with their 20-year strategy, the 20-year strategy is going to win every time. We need grander vision, and a longer term commitment to achieving our goals.”
Why is it important to call members of Congress about issues we care about? (41:17)
“It is really important because it changes their priority list. They are responsive when there are these massive waves of energy. The example that I like to point to is around healthcare. Republicans—when they had unified control of the Senate, the House, and Trump in the White House just a few years ago—the one thing that they really pushed for was the repeal of Obamacare. And it only failed because people showed up at these town halls and made call after call and sent letters and texts and emails. People rose up. So that kind of energy is what we need in order to keep a spotlight on a given issue in a news environment that is so quick to move on to other things.”
What actually happens when you call a member of Congress? (45:40)
“You're probably talking to an intern, a recent college grad, or a constituent liaison of some kind on the Hill. And literally their job is to listen to you and to take down what you're calling about. The thing that's going to get relayed is, Hey, we got 25 calls in the last hour asking to do something about guns. That is the power, because then at the end of the day a senator is going to get a report that says, more and more people are calling about this. And they will feel like they have to address it through legislation, and by talking about it in events and in media and with other senators. So don't be intimidated. It matters less what exactly you say than just the fact that you call and voice something.”
Should I donate to candidates in more publicized races, or down-ballot [election items and candidates that appear lower on the ballot, and are usually more local]? (30:21)
“As a general rule, we're typically going to be recommending you give farther down-ballot. Down-ballot we don't talk about or think about as often. And that really came to bite us in the butt when it came to redistricting, because we did not win a majority in chambers that we could have won a majority in. And then Republicans were able to use that power immediately to draw maps that are going to keep them in power.”
Why should we stop rage-donating? (25:05)
“In this cycle it's happening as we speak with Marjorie Taylor Greene. Understandably, people want to see her defeated, but she has a strong approval rating in her district, it is a Trump plus-thirty something district. And it would take an actual miracle to unseat her in this midterm cycle. But we've already spent more than $7 million on one of her opponents. And at the same time, if you see if you have a candidate like Rudy Salas in California, who has $500,000 in his bank account, and that's our best pickup opportunity, we have to win that district.”
When is the best time to make a political donation? (28:24)
“We recommend investing really early in the cycle. Your dollars have so much more impact [early in an election year] compared to August to November because early donations change the actual budget and plan of a campaign. Anything they raise above that is pretty much just going to be spent on digital and TV ads.”
Why should we invest early in the election cycle? (29:57)
Your [early giving] dollars are directly translated to what we would call boots on the ground: more people knocking on doors, more people crafting messaging and platform and doing interviews with local news, and the actual campaigning in the communities, where we need to be present in order to win these really competitive races. It's all about maximizing impact.”
What can I do to be more involved in local politics today? (39:09)
“If you live in a blue state or city my challenge to you right now is: Can you name your City Council member? Can you name your state senator, your state representative in the in the House or assembly? Look that up. You should know their name. Put their name in your phone and set a reminder once a month to go to their website and be like, What is this person doing for me? Because they are the ones that really have the power right now to make something happen.”
I hope this episode is as informative for you as it was for me! Happy voting! 🇺🇸
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m not confident Texas will turn blue this year, or even in the next decade. But I am confident Texas will go blue eventually, and I am determined to be part of the long term solution for change.
I’ve been hearing the same things over and over from activists I admire: A social media post, talking to like-minded friends, and even going to political rallies and protests do little to move the needle of change forward. But showing up repeatedly for a cause or candidate you believe in (like Brian said) and talking to people about why something makes a difference in your life can create real change. That’s why I’ve been going door to door (block walking) to get the vote out for Beto for Texas Governor this month.
No matter where you live: If you want to participate in this election, but aren’t sure where to start, here are a few ways you can make a difference right now:
Make a voting plan. You can find out what’s on your ballot, check your voter registration, and make a voting plan at vote411.org. And ask five friends and family members about their voting plans and check in with them to make sure they follow through—accountability matters!
Volunteer. Whether you want to write letters, make phone calls, or block walk for a candidate you support, you can find opportunities near you here. It’s not as scary as you think!!
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Extra special thanks to:
Logo artist Jaymie de los Reyes
You are not alone!