FastCompany Apr 19 2017
How Tech-Savvy Progressives Plan On Keeping The Momentum Going After Georgia’s Election
flippable has been gaining traction as an indispensable resource to local elections; it connects candidates with volunteers and donors and uses data science and targeting to figure out the best ways of pulling off a political upset.
flippable has emerged as one of the darlings of the movement, founded on the conviction that progressives need to pick their battles wisely—that is, where the data tells them they have the best chance of winning.
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“We are very metrics-driven and focused on two things. What level of engagement can we drive to these races? By channeling the excitement of liberals into certain races, can we move the needle? Attributing wins is difficult, but we have a mindset on, is this working? Is this effective?” Vaughan told TechCrunch.
A new group, flippable — founded the day after Trump’s win by Clinton campaign staffers in Ohio — is working to drive donations and volunteers from around the country to competitive down-ballot races. This week, the group launched a political action committee aimed at raising $125,000 by mid-June to help Virginia Democratic candidates viewed as likely to “flip” Republican seats.
flippable, which raises money for state legislative races, and the Sister District Project, which helps activists from liberal enclaves connect with competitive contests elsewhere, teamed up to funnel $145,000 to Delaware state senate candidate Stephanie Hansen, whose victory in a February special election preserved Democrats' control of the chamber.
But another flippable candidate, environmental attorney Stephanie Hansen, won a special election in Delaware in February that enabled Democrats to retain control of the state senate.
The new chairman has personally met with representatives of MoveOn.org, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and "flippable," a new group focused on state legislative and gubernatorial races.
So far flippable has participated in three special elections, helping Stephanie Hansen keep the Delaware statehouse blue, and while they weren't as successful in Virginia, they made the races much closer than they'd ever been and built a base of devoted volunteers ready to act in future races. Their next big test is the special election to replace former congressman and now Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Georgia, in which they're supporting Jon Ossoff.
Already, the organization is seeing results: During the state senate race in Delaware, Flippable directed more than $100,000 in donations to help get Democrat Stephanie Hansen elected. “That’s the perfect example of the kind of organization we want to help,” Gupta says.
Here's the idea behind organizations like flippable: If you're a Democratic Party voter in a politically "safe" district, your donations and phone calls might not make a difference. But they might in a close, key race, like Hansen's. Had she lost, Republicans would have broken the Democrats' complete hold on state government.
The firm’s engineers are still working on that model, but if you ask Raser-Schramm, they already demonstrated their ability to organize a nationwide progressive network around a winnable state legislative election. He credited flippable with spurring the tremendous surge in grassroots fundraising and volunteering that he said was unlike anything he had seen in 14 years in Delaware politics.
As the first truly close special election for Democrats since Trump's election — and one that could have switched control of the Delaware state house if Hansen lost — it became a trial ground for the tactics these groups are using to get activists involved in elections.
"Stephanie didn't have to fundraise," says Raser-Schramm. Unlike many candidates, "she didn't spend much time on fundraising calls. She was out knocking on doors from 11 AM until dark."
A big focus for many Democrats is rebuilding state legislatures dominated heavily by Republicans, with an eye to the redrawing of district lines that will take place following the 2020 census.
That’s prompted the web startup flippable to mobilize Democrats to “flip” state legislative seats from red to blue. The group has netted about $180,000 since its mid-November launch, in donations averaging $24 apiece. Flippable organizers put a grand total of $100 into Facebook ads, but otherwise raised the money entirely by word of mouth.
Ever heard the phrase “All politics are local”? That’s the premise of flippable, a campaign to “flip” Republican-controlled states by zeroing in on local races where a Democrat has the potential to win an upcoming election.
Their ultimate goal is to build a data model that will show people how "flippable" a given district is - that is, how competitive could a campaign there be between a Democrat and a Republican. Currently, they're tracking all 7,400 state legislative races that are coming up.
Flippable wants to make state legislative races sexy. It's a tall order, but comes as Democrats everywhere put renewed emphasis and resources into flipping statehouses ahead of congressional redistricting in 2020. The app's founders are developing a statistical model to anticipate which state legislative districts are the most "flippable" and important, and have already funneled $135,000 for four candidates they've endorsed in upcoming special elections - a significant sum in low-spending state legislative races.
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Chris Walsh of Flippable sees now as a time for Democrats and progressives to reorient their priorities. "The most shocking thing to us has been how willing people have been to think about things outside of just the national landscape. We're pretty focused. We're doing the state legislatures, cheap seats — take back our country through winning elections."
The group says the election taught them that in order to make a change in the political landscape they need to be more focused. So Vaughan brought in several experts in statistics and analytics to help them best target races they could flip.
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It's a simple but elusive combination that flippable hopes to achieve: information, and action. And with Democrats reeling from the election, Vaughan and her like-minded teammates weren't about to wait for the fervor to die down. The startup is by Democrats, for Democrats, with a focus on the growing tide of voter suppression laws.