Democratic Donors: Stop Setting Your Money on Fire
“Rage-giving” may feel good, but it won’t change who has power.
One of my young political heroes is Amanda Litman. We’ve never met, but I’ve followed her career since 2015, when she was the email director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. That’s not why I admire her. It’s what she did next, after Clinton lost, that so impresses me. She, along with Ross Morales Rocketto, a digital campaign manager, started a brand-new organization called Run for Something. It was one of many new groups that burst onto the scene after Donald Trump’s upset victory shocked many incumbent Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups. Instead of bemoaning their loss, or, worse, making noises about finding ways to work harmoniously with the incoming Trump cabal, as a number of Democrats initially did, Litman set out to do the hard work of rebuilding the Democratic base, specifically by encouraging progressives under the age of 40 to run for elective office.
In its first year, Run for Something pulled more than 15,000 young people into its pipeline, offering them coaching in all the organizational skills needed to effectively run for office and lowering the hidden barriers that traditionally have kept the candidate pool limited to ambitious young men with law degrees and connections. They endorsed 72 of them and nearly half of those won their races. By 2021, it had recruited, in total, more than 90,000 to consider running for office; about 10% followed all the way through. Run for Something has so far endorsed more than 1,800 candidates and a total of 637 have won their races. And most of them are the local ones that are the breeding grounds for the next generation of leaders: school boards, county and city councils. They’ve flipped control of the Indianapolis city-county council, helped elect the younger woman ever to enter office in Ames, Iowa, and elected the first Somali-American in Lewiston, Maine. It’s the same kind of work that the Right has been quietly doing for decades, with substantial long-term support from donors like the Koch brothers and other billionaires.