Why I Joined Tech for Campaigns

Like so many people across the country, the 2016 election activated me as a citizen, in a way I had never been involved before. The negativity that dominated the election was unimaginable: blatant misogyny, racism, hatred, and xenophobia were suddenly front and center. I couldn’t really believe what was happening. I watched Trump dominate every message and news cycle. It didn’t seem possible that a person like Trump could get elected to be President of our great country, the United States of America. I did my small part to help elect Hillary as our President. I donated money to her campaign, and donated my time to making calls. I spoke out about my support for Hillary in projects like The Pussy Project, and I created a viral hashtag campaign #imwithherandher with a group of women, to get men and women to speak out for their support of Hillary. We all know the ending to the story, despite all of our individual efforts, Trump won.

On election night, I sat at a bar with friends, watching as the nightmare unfolded. As Trump took the lead and eventually won the election, the bar grew silent. My husband was in Berlin at the time for a developer conference and he sent me a picture of this magazine, resting on a table in the cafe where he was working. The Germans he knew kept asking him, “What is going on in your country? How could you possibly be this close to electing this man? Haven’t you learned from our mistakes in electing a fascist?” He had no answer. Neither did I.

I woke up the day after Trump won, alone in my house, and I just started crying — deep guttural sounds of grief. For days and weeks after I tried to understand why I was taking an election so hard. I realized that this was no ordinary election. It was the pain of forward progress being slingshot backwards in time. It was the heavy weight of oppression. It was the fact that hate was turned into a political weapon… and it won.

Taking Action Post-Election

After the initial shock of grief had passed, like many others I began to ask, how did this happen? Do I not know my own country? What did I miss? Were we truly so divided? As Oprah demonstrated in her recent 60 Minutes interview, the split that separates our nation hasn’t gone away. But as I would soon find out, the election was about more than that.

I quickly decided that I had to become an active participant in our democracy. I was one of the many backseat citizens who did my part, showing up to vote every two to four years, and I wasn’t doing much in between. I decided I was going to include a 30-minute “civic practice” every day, like my 30-minute meditation practice.

Women’s March on Washington — January 2017

In January, I traveled from San Francisco back to the city where I was born, Washington D.C., and marched on Washington with friends (and our mothers) for the Women’s March. That same month, I attended Marianne Williamson’s Sister Giant. It was a three-day accelerated political education for me. That’s where it became clear that something bigger, something much more strategic, was at work. And that thing had led to the outcome of this election.

How Republicans are Winning

Conservatives have known for a long time that demographics and social progress have been making their platform statistically unwinnable in a fair fight. So they have fought a different way.

The Koch Brothers. Dark Money. The Southern Strategy. Gerrymandering.

The biggest lesson was learning about the Republican strategy that had been at work since the late 1970s under the Koch Brothers. A unified message and funding source, plus a grassroots strategy from colleges to state-level campaigns had been used to take away the power from progressives. Democrats now hold fewer seats across the nation than at any time in the last 100 years.

Part of the Republicans strategy is to use gerrymandering — the drawing of wildly unnatural congressional districts to maximize partisan gain — to control where district lines are drawn in their favor. In 2011 project Redmap took gerrymandering to a new level, and is still dictating politics today.

You can learn more about it in Vice’s recent documentary on gerrymandering in North Carolina. The Supreme Court is now hearing several cases this year to determine whether partisan gerrymandering is legal. It’s one of the key issues President Obama is tackling. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger is getting on board.

The Koch brothers are planning to spend $400M in 2018, because they know they get better ROI in non-presidential elections when Democrats stay home. It’s not hyperbole to say Trump is in the White House because of state politics. Trump won three states by less than 50,000 votes: Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. All three were taken over by GOP in 2010 (i.e. both state houses and governorship), and all three implemented voting restrictions that were in place in the 2016 election. There were certainly other factors at play as well, but this was no doubt a key contributor.

Through my education, I realized if I was going to direct my energy somewhere, it was helping progressive candidates at the state level.

The Answer: Tech for Campaigns

That’s when I joined Tech for Campaigns.

Instead of tweeting my outrage, instead of calling my reps on every issue (in California they all are aligned with my interests), I knew I could use my newly carved out civic time for something more impactful. To take the skills I had learned from a decade as an entrepreneur building tech companies and put that to work to help elect more progressive candidates.

Tech for Campaigns knows that state-level campaigns are what moves the needle, yet they get little attention and money compared to national elections. They know that tech now plays a critical part in winning elections. You cannot win without a digital team, and they know that Republicans are outsmarting Democrats when it comes to digital.

Tech for Campaigns wants to change that. TFC gives the best tech talent to the down-ballot progressive and centrist candidates in state races across the country. Projects are customized for each candidate depending on what they need to win: from designing websites, to text-based Get Out the Vote apps, and paid social advertising. It’s about putting skills into action in small ways, where it makes a big difference in the long run. Like working with Elizabeth Guzman, running for Virginia House of Delegates, an impressive candidate looking to flip the 31st district blue. Our volunteers have worked with Elizabeth on her paid Facebook strategy to fundraise, recruit volunteers, and drive awareness. If she wins, she’d be the first Latina in the House of Delegates.

Let’s be clear, there are many ways to help more progressives win, and tech is in no way the savior. There are many great organizations that will play their part. We all work together. This just happened to be the right fit for me…and maybe it’s the right fit for you too.

I joined three months ago as the Community Lead for our volunteers. Since Tech for Campaigns was created in January, we’ve signed up over 3,000 volunteers and completed 50 projects. It’s working.

We’re ready to help more candidates and take it to 500 projects, so we’re raising funds to make it happen. We just surpassed 70% of our goal. Will you join me? Donate to our Indiegogo campaign, or join me as a volunteer. Together we can make a difference.