Democracy for America
|Headquarters||South Burlington, Vermont|
|Charles R. Chamberlain|
|Howard Dean, Jim Dean|
Democracy for America (DFA) is a progressive political action committee, headquartered in South Burlington, Vermont. Founded by former Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean in 2004, DFA leads public awareness campaigns on a variety of public policy issues, trains activists, and provides funding directly to candidates for office. The organization has more than a million members in the United States and internationally.
Dean created the PAC Fund for a Healthy America in 2001 in Montpelier in advance of a planned campaign for President. In March 2004, following the conclusion of Dean's presidential campaign, the organization was renamed "Democracy for America".
Following his unsuccessful run for the Democratic nomination in the 2004 presidential election, Dean used the organization to build on the grassroots momentum for Democratic candidates around the country. DFA used the Internet-based, grassroots organizing that Dean had created for his presidential campaign to help like-minded Democrats get elected. In 2004 the organization endorsed and supported Democrats (known as the Dean Dozen) on the federal, state, and county levels.
Since then, Democracy for America has helped elect over 600 progressives into office, including President Barack Obama, while building their membership to over a million like-minded progressives across all fifty states.
DFA focuses on endorsing candidates, at all levels of office, both local and national. DFA's endorsements are often orchestrated by members of local groups, and they provide resources, such as funds and addresses, to endorsed campaign. According to their own records, the group endorsed over 578 candidates. Candidates wishing for an endorsement may apply on the organization's website.
DFA initially endorsed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 U.S. presidential race after earning a record-breaking 87.9% of the vote in their online poll.
The organization switched its endorsement in July 2016 "...to stand with Bernie Sanders by joining him in formally endorsing Hillary Clinton for President." Sanders has since formed his own group Our Revolution.
Notable past DFA endorsements have included:
- Keith Ellison for DNC Chair
- Bernie Sanders for U.S. Senate in Vermont and U.S. President
- Barack Obama for U.S. Senate in Illinois and U.S. President
- Al Franken for U.S. Senate in Minnesota
- Misty K. Snow for U.S. Senate in Utah
- Mark Begich for U.S. Senate in Alaska
- Ned Lamont for U.S. Senate in Connecticut
- Jeff Merkley for U.S. Senate in Oregon
- Elizabeth Warren for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts
- Howard Dean for DNC Chair
- Deval Patrick for Governor of Massachusetts
- Jon Tester for U.S. Senate in Montana
- Sheldon Whitehouse for U.S. Senate in Rhode Island
- Martin Heinrich for U.S. Representative for New Mexico's 1st district
- Joey Novick for mayor of Flemington, New Jersey
- Sam Yoon for Boston City Council
- Jerry McNerney for U.S. Representative from California's 11th District
- Jack Markell for Governor of Delaware
- Linda McCulloch for Montana Secretary of State
- Debra Bowen for California Secretary of State
- Denise Juneau for Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction
- Donna Edwards for U.S. Representative in Maryland from Maryland's 4th district
- Jim Himes for U.S. Representative for Connecticut's 4th district
- Alan Grayson for U.S. Representative in Florida from Florida's 8th district
- Paulette Jordan for Governor of Idaho in 2018
Democracy for America's status on various social and economic issues places the organization firmly on the left of the American political spectrum. Although they often endorse and advocate for Democratic Party candidates, DFA is also to the left of many national and state Democratic lawmakers.
DFA's liberal policies have led them to oppose established Democrats whose policies contradict their own. In 2006, the group supported Ned Lamont over incumbent Sen. Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut's primary and general elections. Lamont eventually won the primary election, but lost the general election to Lieberman, who ran as an independent. That year, DFA also supported political newcomer Carol Shea-Porter in her successful Democratic primary and general election victory in New Hampshire's 1st congressional district. In 2008, the group supported newcomer Donna Edwards in her upset primary victory against former Rep. Albert Wynn of Maryland's 4th congressional district
During the 2008 Minnesota Senate election between Al Franken and Norm Coleman, Democracy for America partnered with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee for the "Donate a Dollar a Day to Make Norm Go Away". Through the campaign, participants give a donation of a dollar a day for every day Norm Coleman continued to contest the results of the election, which he lost to Franken following an official statewide recount. The campaign has raised more than $150,000 to "help progressive candidates run effective campaigns and win."
In 2010, DFA launched their "Primaries Matter" campaign with the goal of electing better Democrats into office, instead of just any Democrat. In the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, DFA endorsed Joe Sestak in his successful primary challenge to incumbent Senator Arlen Specter, who switched to the Democratic Party in April 2009 after 44 years as an elected Republican. DFA also endorsed Democratic challenger Elaine Marshall in North Carolina's Democratic primary run-off for U.S. Senate. Marshall went on to beat fellow Democrat Cal Cunningham, who was endorsed by national party leaders. DFA got deeply involved in the Democratic run-off in Arkansas as well, backing challenger Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in his race against incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln. Halter went on to lose, but only by 4% in a state that went overwhelmingly to John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.
In 2011, DFA was primarily focused on the fight over worker's rights in Wisconsin. DFA has 25,000 members in Wisconsin and more than 2,000 of them volunteered for this campaign. With partners, primarily the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (or PCCC), DFA spent $2.2 million in Wisconsin for a three-pronged strategy to be on the air, on the ground and on the phones. DFA and PCCC volunteers made 382,623 calls and contacted 101,663 voters. DFA ran three canvass offices with 108 canvassers in three key districts to recall Sheila Harsdorf (SD 10), Alberta Darling (SD 08), and Dan Kapanke (SD 32). DFA canvassers knocked on more than 100,000 doors in Wisconsin in six weeks.
During the Wisconsin Campaign DFA and PCCC ran five TV ads. WaronWorkingFamilies.com, www.RecalltheRepublicans.com, Luther Olsen vs. Poy Sippi Elementary School, Alberta Darling vs. 6 yr old Gabriel, Alberta Darling vs Her own Republican Voters.
Universal health care was the focus of most of DFA's activity after the 2008 presidential election. DFA believes that it is a travesty that currently 47 million Americans do not have health care. Over 14,000 lose their health insurance every day, and more than 44,000 Americans die each year. Because of this DFA has concentrated on promoting legislation that is designed to achieve universal coverage, mirroring the advocacy of the group's founder, Howard Dean. The organization launched a website, "Stand with Dr. Dean", to campaign for a reform of the American health care system with the creation of a public option. A petition on the website had gathered more than 400,000 signatures by November 2009.
DFA has also worked to restrict legislation from being passed that requires voters to present government-issued identification cards, birth certificates, and passports before they are allowed into the voting booth. The organization has at various times deemed the laws "excessive" and "Draconian," and has argued that the laws inhibit ordinary citizens from being able to enter the polling stations.
DFA favors legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States. In 2009, the organization sent volunteers to Maine to campaign against Ballot Question 1, which nullified a same-sex marriage law passed by the state's legislature. In 2010, DFA worked with the Courage Campaign to push for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", getting nearly 100,000 members to sign an open letter to President Obama and the nation's Senators.
In response to the Wall Street-driven financial crisis, DFA launched their "Move Your Money Campaign" with The Huffington Post and filmmaker Eugene Jarecki. The idea is to move money out of the big banks and into more community driven financial institutions.
In reaction to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, DFA introduced their "Boycott BP" initiative to get BP to make the clean-up effort in the gulf, rather than their bottom line, the company's #1 priority.
Foreign policy issues
Before the invasion in March, 2003, Democracy for America members were outspoken critics of the war. Since then they have continued to fight against the war, with phone calls and letters to congress. In 2006 and 2008, they helped elect a new democratic majority congress, laying the groundwork to demand that American troops are withdrawn from Iraq.
Also in 2008, Democracy for America endorsed outspoken Iraq war critic Barack Obama, who later went on to become the 44th President. In February 2009, President Obama stated unequivocally that American combat operations in Iraq will end no later than August 31, 2010.
2016 U.S. presidential election
Training and scholarships
DFA members at both the national and local levels have participated in numerous training programs, intended to instruct prospective candidates on running a successful political campaign. DFA's main training initiative, called the Campaign Academy, consists of 16 hours of interactive workshops that bring hundreds of local activists, campaign staff and candidates together for 2 days of intensive campaign training. Topics have included; online organizing, shutting down a campaign, canvassing and phonebanking, recruiting volunteers, how to increase voter turn out, developing a finance plan, sustaining your media presence, winning with social networks and building a grassroots army: volunteer recruitment.
Netroots Nation Scholarship competition
DFA also awards scholarships to progressive or liberal bloggers, known as the "Netroots Nation Scholarship". In 2010, DFA sent 60 online activists to Netroots Nation, held in Las Vegas, NV from July 22–25. Other sites for the Netroots Nation Convention have included Austin, TX in 2008 and Pittsburgh, PA in 2009.
In 2010, DFA sent field organizers to progressive campaigns for a program called Dean Corps. Similar to Sen. Russ Feingold's Progressive Patriot corps, organizers represented an in-kind contribution to the recipient campaign. The goal is to hire, train and place field organizers on key progressive campaigns to get more real progressive Democrats elected in all 50 states at all levels of office.
"DFA Community" was a political and social networking tool that allowed DFA members to meet like-minded people in their area, form groups and organize events. Members typically met on the first Wednesday of every month in organized groups around the country. DFA Community is currently listed as having over 600 online groups, with representation in every congressional district. While DFA members in local groups regularly implement the priorities of the national organization, DFA local groups are voluntary, autonomous, and not officially affiliated with the national organization. Some of DFA's most notable groups include East Bay for Democracy, Democracy for New Jersey, Philly For Change, DFA Columbia (Missouri), and Democracy For New York City.
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