To save our republic, we must invest in long-term, structural change

By Cory Archibald

It began with a simple idea: Congress is broken, and we need a new one.

Two and a half years ago we set out to elect a brand new congress made up of working class, hometown heroes, nominated by you, funded by people, not corporate PACs, on a single, bold platform.

We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we believed in the need to produce structural, lasting change to put power back in the hands of working people like you and me.

Your support gave us the first glimpse of what that future looks like when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated the 4th most powerful Democrat in Congress to become the youngest woman elected to the United States Congress.

And while we were heartbroken by the elections that didn’t go our way on Tuesday, we are not defeated, because this is bigger than a single candidate or a single election.

Brand New Congress is part of a movement for structural change in our democracy, and there were many victories in the movement for justice, shared prosperity, and equality Tuesday night. I’d like to take a moment to reflect on those wins as well.

Michigan became the first state to vote for an end to gerrymandering, a move that will put an end to cherry-picking voters and manufacturing election outcomes. When it works — and it will — numerous states will soon follow.

In another first, Massachusetts became the first state to enact anti-discrimination protection for transgender people.

Both Michigan and Nevada voted to implement automatic voter registration, removing barriers that keep people from the polls and making it easier for first-time voters to take part. The Michigan vote also expanded access to absentee voting and allows for same-day voter registration.

Meanwhile, Florida voted overwhelmingly to restore the voting rights of 1.4 million disenfranchised former felons. Down in Louisiana, the state that until very recently held the nation’s highest incarceration rate for 20 years, voters overwhelmingly decided to end a Jim Crow-era practice that let juries convict defendants of felonies even when the decision isn’t unanimous.

A LOT of bad actors were kicked out of power. Union-buster Scott Walker was booted from Wisconsin’s governor’s mansion, while the King of Voter Suppression Kris Kobach was defeated in the race to become Kansas’ governor. Dean Heller was ousted from the Senate, and Dana Rohrabacher was defeated in his re-election bid for the House. Even local bad actors were booted. Remember Kim Davis, the Kentucky County Clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples? She’s looking for a new job now.

Thanks to the efforts of activists like Linda Sarsour, Shaun King, and King’s Real Justice PAC, prosecutors responsible for letting the murderers of Eric Garner and Michael Brown go free were ousted with the help of local organizers.

A record number of women were elected to Congress — many of them women of color and strong progressives. Come January a total of 112 women will serve in Congress. And while this is a welcome change, it’s also a stark reminder of how much work we still need to do. Although women comprise more than 50% of the population, this historic election only increases our representation in Congress from 19.3% to 20.9%.

And what about our incredible slate? We could not be more proud of each and every one of these candidates. Against unbelievable odds, they turned their lives upside down and inside out, putting it all on the line for the chance to serve their community in Congress.

They ran for Congress while still holding down full time jobs. They sacrificed time with their families, friends, loved ones. Both they and their families experienced retaliation from employers and customers. They were targeted with hateful rhetoric, threats of harm, racism, and misogyny. Their opponents and their political operatives spread vicious lies about them, welcoming the influence of shady cash spent by unaccountable, outside influences to sow discord and distrust.

Yet they were also met with hope. They spoke with tens of thousands of people in their community who felt like someone cared; like someone was listening to them for the very first time. They knocked on doors that no candidate had ever knocked before. They listened to the struggles of their neighbors and they offered something different. Something to believe in.

The result? Over 1.6 MILLION votes were cast for Brand New Congress candidates.

I want to pause for a moment and reflect on what that number means.

These are grassroots campaigns on shoestring budgets, running for office for the first time, against an entrenched political establishment with billions of dollars to spend.

There was no money for TV ads, and limited funds for radio, billboards or other forms of traditional advertising. Even mailers were out of question for most of our candidates. Those 1.6 million votes came from thousands and thousands of conversations, volunteers knocking on doors and candidates meeting constituents where they were.

The usual means of helping candidates win were not available to our candidates. They couldn’t afford the fees the local party organizations wanted to charge to offer their assistance. Most couldn’t afford to pay for access to voter databases or strategic tools the party controlled.

The parties did not show up for these candidates, but Brand New Congress did. Because of you we were able to help them recruit and train additional volunteers. Thanks to your support we were able to assist them with strategy, coaching, and messaging.

Our candidates led on all the issues that matter to voters, and won support for ideas like Medicare for All and a living wage across party lines. Their integrity and moral clarity is unquestionable. We are proud of the races they ran, proud of their leadership, and proud to call them part of Brand New Congress.

With every single odd stacked against us, we still made progress in this election. We are not going anywhere. The fight for the soul of our nation has already begun, and will continue until it is won.

Every volunteer we activated.

Every supporter we inspired.

Every new voter registered.

All of it will count in 2020, 2022, 2024, and beyond.

But if we’re going to elect hundreds of candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, we have to grow.

We need to disrupt the status quo and invent new ways of organizing. We need to develop processes and train volunteers and candidate staff to work smarter and harder with fewer resources. We need to recruit thousands of organizers across the nation, and develop new leaders to keep building this movement.

We need to invest in structural change.

If you take nothing else away from Tuesday’s elections, know this: You are not alone. There are at least 1.6 million Americans out there just like you who believe in the need for a Brand New Congress. Help us rally them and organize so we can take 2020 by storm.

Here are three easy ways you can get started right now:

  1. Donate. Even if it’s just $5 a month. Over 99% of contributions made to Brand New Congress are less than $30. When you commit to a monthly contribution, you help us build a budget, hire staff, and plan for the long haul.
  2. Volunteer. Every single one of us has something to offer. Sign up to volunteer and we will find a way to put your passion to work.
  3. Share. Tell your friends and family about Brand New Congress.

We are already gearing up for 2020. Stay tuned for our announcement coming VERY SOON to learn which districts we’re targeting first.

We can, and we will, have a Brand New Congress. Our small staff and fiercely dedicated volunteers have proven we’re ready to invest our time, energy, and talents to this movement. But if we’re going to win big in 2020, we have to grow.

Have faith, and hold the line. Everything we learned in 2018 has only made us more resilient, and more determined to win.

Cory Archibald has volunteered for Brand New Congress since January 2017, assuming the role of the Director of Communications and Chair of the Board of Directors in September 2017. For 18 years, she has worked all over the US and across the world as learning and development professional for a wide range of industries. She and her husband have also rescued animals for over 10 years. When she’s not looking after their dozens of dogs, cats, chickens, and ducks, Cory enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and dabbling in photography.