Originally published in February 2022
The upcoming midterm elections have me thinking about organizing. (Doesn’t everything?)
A political campaign isn’t organizing. If we’re going to win long-term, election campaigns should be an opportunity for organizing.
Our objective should be to bring people together to build power, using the opportunity of the election to do it.
In 2018, leaders of Brady United Against Gun Violence wanted to strengthen their chapter structure – and win congressional campaigns.
Electing gun violence prevention (GVP) champions wasn’t enough to take on the sprawling power of the gun lobby though. GVP leaders had to build momentum to change the conversation about guns.
Our strategic campaign centered on bringing activists together in one-on-one meetings and house meetings. In these conversations, activists shared stories of their experiences with gun violence and what inspired them to join the movement. They also shared their vision for safer communities and strategized about what it would take to get there.
It turns out, that no matter what activists wanted to do about gun violence, we all needed a better Congress to do it. From there, activists signed up to knock on doors, make phone calls and reach out to their networks about voting for pro-GVP candidates.
We partnered with coalition allies to organize Gun Violence Prevention days in all of our highlighted districts. In one region with several key races, we organized a GOTV party, with stations for five different campaign actions for each endorsed candidate.
In the end, we won in 89% of the highlighted races and members loved the campaign. People who had never knocked on a door or made a phone call recruited others to knock or call with them. Organizers blew past the goals for new potential leaders and engaging members in campaigns.
Longtime leaders built new relationships with local allies and young GVP activists.
And . . . the new House passed a robust background check bill within six weeks of taking office. Candidates aren’t afraid to talk about GVP measures anymore and the National Rifle Association is a shadow of its former self. The gun conversation is changing.
All that in a four month campaign. Just think what we could do if we invested in organizing long term, using the opportunity of campaigns to do it, rather than the other way around.