STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES OF THE DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE
The Democracy Initiative’s mission is to build a powerful and diverse democracy movement to enhance voting rights and blunt the huge influence of corporate money flooding our political system. Robust democratic institutions are the essential means to improve the lives of our families, our communities, our environment, the working class and our nation. Each of our organizations must transcend our own silos to mobilize millions of people in communities across the country to expand and protect our democracy. We commit to embracing a convergence of issues including both expansion of voting rights and increasing participation as well as the reduction of the power of wealthy individuals and corporations.
Through collective action we have greater power, and with greater power will come greater justice.
In 2014 labor, civil rights, voting rights, environmental, good government and other progressive organizations representing 30 million members came together to form the Democracy Initiative to stand united for our nation’s fundamental democratic tenets.
As large corporations and an elite few control more wealth and power, these tenets are threatened. Coupled with structural racism and economic inequality the very foundation of our democracy – a democracy that ensures the rights of all people – is at grave risk.
The political cataclysm of the 2016 elections affirms the critical importance of building and strengthening this coalition, and injects an even greater urgency into our efforts.
Our coalition partners’ ability to accomplish their organizational goals are only realized if we preserve and expand our democratic process and institutions. And they are only realized when we bridge racial and class divides, building a truly multiracial, cross-class democracy movement that brings together traditional civil rights and single-issue good government organizations to fight for both voting rights and to purge the influence of money from our policy and politics.
Amidst our tapestry of just causes, democracy is our north star, the bedrock of our shared beliefs and the strategic center of gravity around which we agitate.
The cherished principle of democracy underpins our common values and empowers the voices of the people. Democracy cannot exist when:
Wealthy individuals and corporations decide who can run for office and influence who wins;
The votes of the poor and people of color are suppressed through restrictive voter ID laws, disenfranchisement of returning citizens and limitations on access to the polls;
Religious minorities are targeted;
Criminalization of communities is the center of policy making; Bigotry against LGBTQ individuals is tolerated;
Black lives don’t matter;
Immigrants are harassed and demeaned, and their families are torn apart;
Voting districts are gerrymandered for partisan reasons;
People in the public and private sector do not have the right to freely form unions and engage in collective bargaining;
Corporate interests and anti-science attitudes dominate environmental and climate policymaking and endanger public health;
Public services, including schools and health care, are both unequally and underfunded; and
Basic tenets of democracy such as freedom of the press and freedom to
assemble are threatened or curtailed.
The Democracy Initiative will act as a catalyst to mobilize coalition partners’ members on democracy issues. This can be achieved by structural reforms that give more power and influence to our citizenry, like: citizen-funded elections, campaign finance reform, blunting the influence of monied interests in governing, restoration of rights for returning citizens, voting by mail, same day voter registration, automatic voter registration and ending gerrymandering.
ROLE OF DI
I. GRASSROOTS MOBILIZATION: Coordinate mobilization for targeted grassroots campaigns
The DI will provide strategic alignment and planning, staff support and training, and enhancement of communication capacity. Communication work, includes:
Message development that focuses on linking to our core issues; Coordination of funding;
Collaboration with allies to build a democracy base within their organizations;
and Coordination of direct action mobilization efforts.
We support specific local campaigns based upon mutually agreed-upon criteria, including:
Concentrated membership of at least three large coalition partners in the area or a number of smaller issue groups that can make a difference (determined through “power mapping” and resource commitments);
Coalition partners commitment to communicate and engage their members (partners will communicate the results of the engagement to the DI for the sole purpose of campaign strategic decision making support assessments, volunteer development and other campaign activities);
Presence of a civic table, e.g., some degree of pre-existing coordination or cooperation between groups, minimal amount of inter-group tension or conflict, consensus on the role of the DI in coordination of campaign and DI member groups commit to local participation by leaders, particularly leaders of color;
Potential for a proactive agenda relating to a critical democracy issue, such as expanding/protecting voting rights and blunting the influence of money from politics;
Opportunity to grow the coalition to build for future campaigns on both voting rights and money out of politics;
Recognition of the central role of institutional racism as an underlying threat to democracy and explicit promotion of racial justice;
Opportunity for the campaign to serve as a model for widespread replication;
and ability for the DI to add substantive value by collaborating with member groups to mobilize members locally, which includes recruitment of members and their participation in the Democracy Champions Program.
Engagement of members include but are not limited to participation in rapid response teams, texting, emails, telephone calls, canvassing, organizing resources to ensure economies of scale, etc.
II. COMMUNICATIONS: Define, shape and sharpen democracy messaging
The DI will build capacity to ensure it can craft issue driven messaging that connects the dots, highlighting the overall intersectionality of issues between the individual campaigns and democracy reform. Utilizing the assets and expertise in the amplification and design of the groups are key. The DI will work with funders and partners to identify new mechanisms to engage groups of color, and millennials from different constituency groups, i.e., labor unions, cross-issue spectrum groups.
The DI communications responsibilities include:
Creating social media toolkits for coalition partners to use during campaigns; Sharpening and shaping messages and memes that spotlight the theme of democracy and link issues together, ensuring they reflect the demographics of the community;
Identifying and encouraging collaboration of diverse messages and new ways of communicating with communities of color and people who are disenfranchised; Continuing to produce the “Weekly Update” that shares and informs coalition partners of the democracy work being done around the country;
Convening meetings of the communications directors of the coalition members to discuss and coordinate media strategy;
Coordinating earned media strategies during targeted campaigns;
Writing op-eds for leaders of coalition members to submit to newspapers; Coordinating letters to the editor;
Conducting outreach and giving speeches to community organizations at
Enlisting high-profile supporters in social media strategy; Creating opportunities for DI members to grow their lists; and
Scanning media and news to identify current events into which we can inject a DI message to raise awareness and shift discourse.
III. ORGANIZATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE: Develop diverse leadership within coalition members to carry forward democracy struggles
The DI will support programs such as Democracy Champions that are aimed at recruiting, mentoring and supporting diverse leaders within the coalition organizations. The DI’s work in deepening the democracy infrastructure includes:
Working with coalition members to recruit Democracy Champions with an emphasis on diversity, including youth, people of color, women, immigrants, disabled people, senior citizens, religious minorities, LGBTQ, blue collar workers, etc. Democracy Champions will receive training, on-going mentorship and recognition as they develop greater leadership skills and can serve as the point person in collaborating with other organizations;
Facilitating collaborative strategic planning among leadership of the member organizations, including regular discussions of maintaining a proactive democracy agenda while keeping a sharp focus on existential threats; Emphasizing state and local grassroots organizing and mobilizing, resisting the temptation to focus on inside-the-Beltway federal issues and keeping both short- and long-term goals defined and in sharp focus because building capacity within a locality carries more benefits long-term; and agitating and encouraging bold and dramatic direct action and mass mobilization by our coalition partners’ millions of members in the face of highly organized and sophisticated attempts by those now in power to target vulnerable populations, destroy the social safety net, bust unions, and place even greater power and wealth into the hands of the few.