Most candidates agree that “grass-roots engagement” and a good ground campaign matter, but too often candidates misunderstand what actually makes them work.
People power is not a spigot that can be turned on and off with fancy technology. Instead, it depends on interwoven human networks through which people learn to work together on things they care about, even when the electoral spotlight is not on. Campaigns, and political parties, can help build these networks — or make them wither away. In 2009, national Democrats opted to let them wither. They’re back at that crossroads today.
2018 was a standout year for voter engagement. According to data provided by NGP VAN, the voter file provider for Democratic campaigns and independent groups up and down ballot, supporters of Democratic campaigns knocked on more than 155 million doors in 2018, a 60 percent increase over the previous midterm election and a full 40 percent more than in the 2016 presidential election year.
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