What individual actions can best help a Democrat be elected this year?
March 4, 2016 7:15 AM   Subscribe

I cannot stomach the idea of a Trump presidency. Given the resources available, what actions can I take that will best stop from happening?

Trump was an entertaining first act to the election this year, but the notion he would actually win an election is now too terrifying. My partner and I have been enthusiastic political observers but never political activists in any meaningful sense of the word, and would like to understand what things done on an individual level can have the most impact in the race.

I'd like this to be as evidence-based as possible -- what actions are known to actually influence the outcome of an election? I don't want to waste my time putting up yard signs if that's not something that actually moves the needle.

Some specifics of our situation:
  • We live in an urban area in a deep-blue state not within driving distance to any swing states, with a very late primary/caucus
  • We have a minor preference between Clinton and Sanders, but either is 110% acceptable (i.e. if data shows one is much more likely to win the general than the other, trying to shift the outcome of the primary is something we'd happy to work toward)
  • We're full-time employed (day jobs) but are willing to take a "vacation" or two to a swing state if that is a useful thing to do
  • We'd be willing to donate up to ~$5,000 to a candidate fund or PAC / SuperPAC / whatever
  • Very much introverts, so talking to strangers (canvassing / calling) would be an activity of last resort
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:33 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

The most realistic thing is to deprive Trump of delegates, which means picking a candidate other than him who is the most likely to win in a given state and promoting the crap out of him (probably just by giving money to his campaign or to his state GOP.)

In Ohio that means (and you have no idea how frustrating this is for me on a personal level) supporting Kasich. But we need to know which state you're in to help you identify the best target. The issue is that it matters how big they are, whether they're winner-take-all or proportional, how soon the primary is, etc. You can't just assume the red state next door is the best guess. You also need to check the behavior of the party in that state, because some of them are really poorly managed - especially in "deep blue" areas, the Republican party apparatus could be managed by three old people and a dog (none of whom can use email.)

Neither of the "stop Trump" groups that I've found have been at all helpful on this issue, BTW. GOP leadership types put off fighting this for too long, so the effort is poorly organized. You will have to deal with a specific campaign or with a state party apparatus.
posted by SMPA at 7:45 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is just my opinion.

As a Democrat, you can't really do much of anything in the Primaries, unless you can cross lines and vote for different parties (we can in GA.) So register Republican and vote for 'not Trump.' But honestly, don't bother.

I'll say this, very few democrats are turning out for the primaries. While Sanders is appealing, Clinton is winning because she's perceived as a more viable candidate (for good or for ill.) I suspect that folks are staying home because of the inevitability of Clinton.

The primaries don't really reflect the general election. What we're seeing is: Of the people who vote for their party in the primaries, THESE are the people who favor this or that candidate. So Trump wins in the primaries aren't really reflections of how viable he'll be in the general election.

We're already seeing the Republican Party calling for a halt on the Trump nonsense. I think they've finally realized that he might get the bid and even THEY don't want that.

So the primaries, as much as I hate to say it, are not as vital as the General Election. Vote for the Democrat of your choice in the Primary. Vote for Clinton in the General (because it's going to be Clinton.)

At that point, make your donations.

The Republican Convention is going to be contentious and back-door party stuff will ensue to get a candidate who is 'not Trump'.

If it makes you feel better, I have conservative friends, die-hard republicans and they HATE Trump. The field is so split right now, if either Cruz or Rubio drops out, those votes will consolidate and beat Trump. Hell, even the 5% that Ben Carson was getting might help either Cruz or Rubio get the necessary majority.

So again, Primaries, while interesting aren't really as important as the General. Save your efforts for that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:49 AM on March 4, 2016 [11 favorites]

Vote. Get your friends to vote. Get every young person you know to vote.
The main thing that will assure a Trump victory is if people don't turn-out to vote. Especially young voters.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:21 AM on March 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

I live in a state that is heavily leaning toward a candidate that is not my preferred candidate. I am voting early, phone banking and talking to everyone I can to encourage them to vote. All you can do is try.
posted by lunastellasol at 8:39 AM on March 4, 2016

Well if you happen to be a tiny very old grandma type with nerve, show up his events with a placard that seems to be pro-trump that at the right moment folds down with incredibly embarrassing photos/slogan. Have a good undercover videographer(s) capture the embarrassment and subsequent violent forced ejection. Post to youtube.

This is flip but I saw an interview of Trumps biographer and it sounds like when he's caught in an embarrassing situation to him he may not react well. Get sufficient bad imaging to go viral and it may trigger the "wait, not Trump" realization that most everyone has expected.

Or, campaign for Bernie.
posted by sammyo at 8:48 AM on March 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

Find people who want to vote Democratic. Find people who want to vote Democratic who aren't registered and get them registered. Get them all to the polls in November.

Get your friends to do the same.

Crowdfund bus and car rentals to get people people registered and to the polls.
posted by justcorbly at 9:25 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Not Trump candidates are vile in different ways, and I hate the cynicism of registering to vote in that way, but that's just me.

I have posted some of the interesting articles about Trump from the front page to my facebook feed. Hardcore jackholes will not be swayed; it's my small hope that anyone at all reasonable may be better informed and make a better decision. I seldom post inflammatory stuff about Trump or other GOP candidates, though I deeply despise them, because I think it doesn't help.

Work hard to stop the Clinton and Sanders disinformation campaigns, meaning, spread the good word about both candidates and try to help diminish the hate. The GOP and the Wingnut Right have been orchestrating the anti-Hillary campaign for some time, and they're laying off Bernie in hopes of fracturing the Democrats. Don't let this happen. Sanders and Clinton are both so very much better than any alternative, and worthy of enthusiastic support.

You can write letters to newspapers, too.

Also, work for your Congressional Rep. Those races are important.
posted by theora55 at 10:37 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm going to disagree with Ruthless Bunny.

There are districts where Clinton is winning by coin tosses. If one more Sanders supporter had shown up, it would have been a victory for Bernie.

Don't ever assume that anything is inevitable. A Clinton victory over a certain junior Senator from Illinois was supposed to be inevitable not that long ago.
posted by Tamanna at 11:21 AM on March 4, 2016 [9 favorites]

Another thing. As much as you can, get the word out about the downticket races. A Democrat in the White House is severly if they've got to fight Republican obstructionism every step of the way. It happened to Obama. Don't let it happen to Clinton or Sanders.
posted by Tamanna at 11:22 AM on March 4, 2016

Consider volunteering to drive people to the polls on Election Day.
posted by Soliloquy at 11:35 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

There are districts where Clinton is winning by coin tosses. If one more Sanders supporter had shown up, it would have been a victory for Bernie.

This is extremely misleading. In the places where there were coin tosses, they were over precinct delegates, NOT state-wide delegates. The coin flips had zero impact on the final delegate count.

In any case, I agree with theora55 that one of the best things to do is to try and promote a sense of unity among Democrats for supporting whichever candidate (most likely Clinton) wins the nomination. I have so many friends who are driving me insane with some sort of pledge to write in Sanders on their general election ballot if he doesn't get the nomination, thereby wasting their vote. Whatever the differences between Clinton and Sanders, neither of them waffles on the KKK or wants to ban Muslins from the country! So I think to the extent you can call out misinformation about both candidates when you see it and encourage folks to support the Democratic candidate -- whoever it is -- is helpful.

In terms of the money, I would save it for the general election. The limit is $2700 per person per election, so given your budget each of you should be able to donate $2500 to whoever the Democrat is. Because there are limits on contributions to candidates (hard money) but not on contributions to Super PACs, donating that money to the campaign to spend on whatever they want to is likely the best use of your money. Again, I would wait until the general and donate to whoever the Democratic nominee is, because whoever it is will be better than Trump.

In terms of electability -- there's not a ton of good data either way (I say this as a political scientist). My sense among fellow political scientists is that a pretty sizable majority of us think Clinton is more electable, but it's based more on impressions than any sort of hard data, because this election as a whole has been so unpredictable and there's not a good historical comparison case. That's why I would pour more of your energy into the general.

Finally -- if you are so inclined, switch your registration to Republican or ask for the Republican ballot (each state does this differently), and vote for whomever is polling highest other than Trump in the primary.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:13 PM on March 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

The biggest thing is going to be the coordinated get-out-the-vote effort in swing states in November. A financial contribution to the Democratic nominee's campaign is probably the best way to assist with that, if your state is solidly blue.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 3:19 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Register voters!!
posted by oceanjesse at 11:10 AM on March 5, 2016

I love reading questions like this. It's so much better to decide to do something instead of silently wringing one's hands like a lot of people seem to be doing right now. I have worked on many campaigns and read a gazillion academic articles and studies on what improves voter turnout. Based on that:

I feel awful telling you this, but if you're talking about donating time instead of money, then minute-for-minute, the most impactful thing you can do is canvass door-to-door in a swing state in the lead-up to the general election. There is a TON of social science research backing this up, but basically, face-to-face conversations between a voter and a volunteer are up to four times more effective than calls by volunteers or face-to-face conversations with paid staffers, and infinitely more effective than things like dropping literature off or putting up a yard sign. (I am happy to dig up this research if you're curious) I will say that as someone who has gone door-to-door for many campaigns, and trained many volunteers to do so, introverts can often be really great at it. You know how introverts tend to be better at one-on-one conversations? That's what canvassing is.

Other things you can do:

- Talk to every person you know who lives in a swing state and make sure they know 1. to vote for whoever is the non-Trump candidate and 2. where to vote (you can look it up with them). Get them to promise you they will vote. Conversations between a voter and someone they know/trust are the most effective way to get someone to vote (actually more effective than the canvassing I talked about above, but necessarily at a smaller scale). And there have been studies showing that getting a voter to make a plan to vote and commit to doing so has a real impact.

- Definitely donate that money if you can. I would suggest donating it directly to a campaign rather than a SuperPAC, because the campaign is legally allowed to do more than a Super PAC. You can also donate it to the state party committee of whatever is the most up-for-grabs swing state come, say, August. (don't wait until October to donate)

Consider volunteering to drive people to the polls on Election Day.

This is a nice thing to do if you have no other options, but I wouldn't say it's the most effective thing in most cases. Most democratic-leaning districts, the ones where you really want to drive turnout, are pretty dense and getting to the polls is usually not an issue. And in any case, campaigns usually have more people volunteering to drive than voters who need rides. If you're volunteering on election day, you want to be reminding people to vote.

Good luck! Feel free to memail me with questions about any of this.
posted by lunasol at 5:21 PM on March 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Trump is a creature of the media. Anything that can make them stop talking about him, even for a minute, is a help. Fighting him in the media is still talking about him. I almost believe if the whole country could just go one full day without saying his name he would evaporate in the morning sun. To this end I do not give even anti-Trump stories my clicks. If someone brings him up I just say "He picks on cripples." and change the subject.
posted by irisclara at 6:59 PM on March 5, 2016

Vote in anything you can. If you can vote in Republican primaries, vote against Trump. If you are a Democrat, vote for someone who can defeat Trump. If Trump wins the nomination, then whoever the Democratic candidate may be, vote for them to beat Trump.

But - as a last additional safety net, pay very close attention to whatever Congressional races you may be able to vote in as well. People always forget about Congress - they tend to just re-elect whoever' sin office or vote a party ticket. And the Congress actually writes the laws, and thus has the power to put a roadblock across whatever the President wants to do. Know how Obama kept getting hobbled by an ineffectual Republican Congress at just said "no" to everything he did? They were there because a whole lot of Tea Party folk voted them into office in 2010. And that means you can vote a Democrat into a congressional office in 2016, to stack the deck that there will be a Congress telling Trump "no" all the time instead if he gets in.

Some of the people who were elected into office in 2010 will be up for re-election this year. Give'em a close look.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:27 AM on March 6, 2016

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