In his Rewire post, “Digital Precinct Captains: A New Strategy for Democrats,” Jeff Hauser writes:
…By focusing less on the traditional advertising tools of the 20th century and more on the new digital organizing tools of the 21st, Democrats can have a true 50-state strategy without all the costs it used to entail.
One way to do this would be by identifying and supporting a team of thousands of “digital precinct captains” around the country who would be supported and organized by paid staff members. These highly motivated super volunteers would serve an organizing role between both ordinary voters and occasional activists and the formal political party itself. They would seek to engage, serve, and mobilize voters—not just the party—and in doing so, Democrats could become an actual energized community whose leaders and members are perpetually talking to and learning from one another. Their success would be based on engagement, not fundraising.
The idea, in the words of the article’s subtitle, is “move the Democratic Party much closer to being a meaningful organization instead of a mere ballot label.” Hauser adds that “The rise of Indivisible and countless other #Resistance groups have revealed an unprecedented interest in political activism and the power digital organizing tools can wield.”
“Such activism within the Democratic Party itself would increase the people power available to candidates who inspire communities,” argues Hauser. “From incubating voter registration drives to promoting a community picnic, captains would choose the activities that their communities desire while also communicating with the tools that best speak to those communities.”
Untilnow, says Hauser, “digital strategy has essentially been used as a different way to raise money. Everyone’s gotten those emails (probably too many of them) asking if you “can chip in just $5” for a given occasion…That means that the party’s digital strategy has largely been a one-way street: send out a message and judge its success by the dollars it generated.”
Hauser believes the digital precinct captains “would engage a broad swath of voters and ensure a meaningful and consistent point of contact with the Democratic Party.” It would provide “the tools they need to engage and organize throughout the year while informing the party how politics is happening at the most granular level.”
Another benefit would be that the digital precinct capatains could organize by geography, neglected constituencies, “like the parents of kids with disabilities or senior citizens in nursing homes,” or issues, or a combination of those factors.
Digital precincts “could create an enduring semi-decentralized digital-oriented permanent campaign structure.” Utilizing tools like Facebook, Instagram and texting, “this structure would take advantage of the reduced costs of two-way communications between the federal party and grassroots outside the strictures of TV ads or mainstream media.”
Precinct captains once played a much larger role in Democratic politics, particularly in cities where population was concentrated. Neighborhood-level political groups still have an important role to play, but it would be political malpractice for Democrats not to leverage digital tools to strengthen the bonds between the national, state and local Democratic parties on the one hand, and the myriad grassroots groups now proliferating in the Resistance nationwide.