Dollars, Fish, and The Enthusiasm Gap

We have been told by the political right that we are living in the age of Citizens United, the age of unlimited corporate money in politics (including foreign money), and that we damn well better like it and shut up.  But there is actually something to be noted in the fundraising numbers of party committees, even in the age of Citizens United.

On October 4, Rachel Maddow did a segment on the Democratic fundraising and polling numbers that got me thinking about the big deal that organizing is.  Rachel demonstrated a simple point that if ordinary people organize and band together, they can defeat big money and special interests by using this old liberal bumper sticker where a big fish is eaten by a bigger fish, except the bigger fish is actually a group of well organized smaller fish:

organize demonstrated with fish

So yes, the battle is more difficult than ever, and corporate money is flooding our airwaves with anti-Democratic ads, but might it be possible - just possible - for us little fish to out-organize that big fish?  Might it be possible for us to band together and keep the corporate power grab away?  But they say we have an enthusiasm gap!  Oh, really?

The DNC reported raising $16.2 million in September alone.  But that's not as big a news as where the money came from.
"Demonstrating the increased energy we've seen in the polls and among our grassroots activists, more than 80 percent of the more than $16 million we raised in September came from low-dollar donors online and in the mail," [DNC Spokesperson] Woodhouse said. "We've found that our supporters are now focused on the election, are responding to the president's message laying out the choice and understand the stakes."
The Plum Line reported that 97% of the donations were $200 or less.  There's a reason this number is so crucial.  And as Rachel Maddow notes below, the number of donors to the DNC in September was a startling 250,000.  Before I go further, I'll let Rachel explain in her excellent piece from October 4:



(Transcript of the full show here.)

Yes, it means a lot of people giving a little bit of money (anyone remember the Obama campaign?).  But these are grassroots small dollar givers who don't simply donate money.  Unlike large donors, these small dollar donors are often people who volunteer their time making phone calls, knocking on doors, talking to their neighbors and getting out the vote.  These are not just dollars in the bank but boots on the ground.  It's the boots on the ground that make up that ensemble of tiny fish that eat up that big fish.

It's not just the DNC.  The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee - the campaign committee with the mission to keep Nancy Pelosi in the Speaker's chair not only outraised their Republican counterparts, raising $15.9 million in September, a spokesperson for the DCCC also said that they have noticed an uptick in small dollar donation.

Even though the GOP has a huge advantage in millions of dollars spent by shadowy corporate front-groups who do not disclose their donors, the Democratic advantage in cash raised by the party committees is actually significant, reports OpenSecrets.org.

In a shift from the last two midterm election cycles, the Democratic Party is more than $200 million ahead in total funds raised during the 2010 election cycle. So far, the Democratic Party's related national and state committees have accumulated more than $663 million while the Republican Party's committees have raised $440 million. And there's still plenty of time left to continue raking in the cash.
This should help level the playing field at least somewhat.

What all this adds up to is a story that gives lie to the much vaunted national media narrative of the great enthusiasm gap.  The pundits want us to believe that Democrats are depressed and Republicans are motivated.  But what we're seeing now is that Democratic activists are not ready to let this one go without a fight.  We understand what is at stake in this election - the very clear choice between moving America forward and slipping back into the national policies responsible for the economic collapse.  We understand that Democrats have a proud record to run on, and also that we have much, much more to do while the Republicans want to cut the middle class out of the American dream once and for all.  We are donating.  We are making calls. We are knocking on doors.

Oh, don't look now, but it turns out that we are getting our vote out.  We're going to keep doing it, and we will prove the pundits wrong come election day.  How are we going to do it?  By organizing!