DemCast Proposal: Challenges & Opportunities

This page provides an overview of some challenges we face and a few big opportunities we should take advantage of in our current media climate to help advance Democratic electoral dominance.

Please start by watching this overview:

Below, we delve into five specific challenges/opportunities in detail. I encourage you to read through, but if you’d prefer to proceed to the next section, you can come back to this section later.

Home Page: Overview

Next Section: Past Efforts to Learn From

Challenge: The Information War

The election of Donald Trump would not have been possible without a dedicated social media influence campaign from Russia, fueled by data that was mined by Cambridge Analytica with the explicit purpose of stoking fears and hatred, and amplified by Russian bot armies and amoral conservative media outlets that routinely propagated lies to the American people. Donald Trump outspent Hillary Clinton 13:1 on social media, because his campaign understood that digital is the new frontier of campaigning, 24/7/365. They bombarded American eyeballs with images, videos and propaganda. It worked.

Thus, foreign and domestic actors conspired to advance on the social media landscape before it even became a battlefield in the new information war. If the left continues to cede digital territory, it will be overtaken. We must advance and fight back by building our own digital army and spreading intentional, strategic messages that advance truth and progress.

Unfortunately, traditional media outlets are terrible at this. For one, they are profit-driven and prone to pushing click-bait faux-news that distracts attention from important stories. Traditional media also errantly falls back on a “two-sides” and “equal time” mentality, even when one side is blatantly lying and obfuscating.

The social media landscape is littered with manipulative messaging from the right and content-poor click-bait that distracts from the important issues of our time. This makes it incredibly hard for Democratic messaging and information to slip through. Ultimately, to push out and amplify the message on the social media battlefield, the left needs its own digital army to develop original, on-point content, push Democratic messaging, drive engagement, and beat back the bot armies of the right.

The left’s digital infantry began to form organically in 2017 and 2018 in response to Trump’s election. That’s us. As grassroots activists, we saw what our own party had failed to see – that digital was the new battlefield – and we took matters into our own hands by forming a digital resistance on Twitter and Facebook. Many promising practices emerged, and an effective online onslaught of pro-Democratic content helped to propel the blue wave, while also demonstrating strategies that can be built upon heading into 2020.

Bottom line: we must engage and advance on the digital battlefield. Both the quality and quantity of content matters.

DemCast Solution: Build a digital army of Democratic activists.

Opportunity: Double Down on Digital Activism

Door-to-door canvassing, phone-banking and postcard-writing are all accepted forms of Democratic volunteering, and they’re acknowledged as such by candidates and campaigns nationwide.

In 2018, on the heels of Russia’s cyber-attack on our nation, another form of campaign volunteering sprang forward: digital activism. There are two key roles filled by digital activists that are important to highlight.

Digital Content Producers – Creating Disbursable Digital Assets

Folks across the country and world exercised their creative talents by generating digital assets in support of their candidates and causes – assets that could be spread across a variety of platforms. Websites like mine, DemWritePress, popped up to share grassroots resistance writing and calls to action. Activist-driven podcasts like End Times Pep Talk and Two Broads Talking Politics were created to showcase blue wave candidates. Artists leant their skills through the creation of graphics and memes with pointed, powerful messaging.

Digital Content Amplifiers

The most astute content producers went on social media to distribute their content, where a growing army of accounts worked together to relentlessly amplify digital assets and strategic communication. For example, throughout the 2018 cycle on Twitter, activists coordinated with each other in “direct message” (DM) rooms to build community, synchronize messaging & amplify high-quality content. DM rooms were hugely impactful: a room member could copy in a tweet, and other members would immediately amplify to hundreds of thousands of Twitter users in minutes.

The impact of these DM/Retweet rooms was felt by Democratic candidates, who gained followers & donations, and got support in fighting back disinfo attacks through these purposeful, behind-the-scenes efforts.

Whether spreading information on websites, via podcasts, in Twitter rooms, through Facebook groups, or on Instagram, content producers and amplifiers are the Democratic Party’s digital army. We don’t do ‘bots’.

Bottom line: for 2020, we must normalize the idea that through content production and amplification, digital volunteering is another important leg on the campaign stool.

DemCast Solution: Formalize a structure and build roles for volunteer producers and amplifiers. Then, connect them together via a single initiative with a common #BlueWave mission.

Challenge: High-Quality Content Languishes, Un-amplified

If a writer spends four volunteer hours crafting a persuasive essay in support of a candidate, but only the writer’s mother, best friend and 9th grade English teacher read it via a Google Doc or a personal blog site, does it make an impact? Maybe a very small one. But there is a huge missed opportunity, too.

Similarly, if a graphic artist spends four volunteer hours crafting a powerful graphic that depicts her anti-immigrant Republican Congressman as a snickering warden patrolling cages full of immigrant children, but she only emails it to her friends and family – only 25 people may ever see it.

Given a well-traveled content hosting platform and a dedicated amplification strategy to help content spread with geographic targeting, the essay above could easily get 7,500-20,000 reads, its headline could be seen in peoples’ Facebook and Twitter feeds 500,000 times, and the powerful “kids in cages” graphic could catch the eyes of a million plus.

Bottom line: we should not be letting high-quality digital content go un-amplified. We don’t ask canvassers to go knock on the one guy’s door and then stand around for four hours. That would be a waste of volunteer time. Our digital content producers are volunteers too, and their products should spread as far as possible, especially in the context of the digital war.

DemCast Solution: Identify and curate high-quality digital content produced by activists, aggregate it, and connect it to a dedicated social media amplification strategy. DemCast will exclusively produce and disseminate pro-Democratic, anti-GOP content aimed at helping to achieve the DemCast Mission.

Opportunity: Offer Coaching on Digital Activism

Many of us dove into the deep end following the 2016 Russian hack/election, and began writing, podcasting, tweeting and posting politically for the very first time. It was trial by fire, but best practices were developed in this new media environment that need to be unearthed and shared.

We need a formal mechanism for mentoring new and promising resistance voices, many of whom could – with structured experience – become the next generation of Democratic/progressive communications professionals. The current media environment requires technical savvy, concision, and persuasive, emotional appeal. Strategies can be shared that will increase the effectiveness and reach of digital activists.

Bottom line: The Blue Wave Movement would benefit from a hub that offers free resources for skill development in content production and amplification strategies.

DemCast Solution: Build an online training portal to help digital activists become more effective. Offer peer feedback and networking opportunities for writers, artists, podcasters & amplifiers.

Challenge: Democrats are About to Face their Biggest Battle For Party Unity

We know from multiple reports that emerged following the 2016 election that Russia’s Internet Research Agency and other actors targeted social media disinformation specifically to drive a deep wedge between the left and centrist wings of the Democratic party/progressive movement, and special efforts were made to de-motivate African Americans from supporting the party.

This is only going to get worse in 2019 and 2020.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that the GOP has literally sold out America, we will hear constant messaging about the “corporatist” Democratic Party, about how “weak” elected Democrats are, and about how “both parties are the same”. It’s going to be brutal, and the mainstream media isn’t going to help.

Bottom line: We need a disinformation-free zone for curated content that clearly sees the big picture: while the left may differ on the pace or method of progress, we are on the same team. Republicans, however, are the enemy of progress – and must be electorally eliminated at every turn for the next two years (and beyond).

DemCast Solution: As a rule, all content produced or amplified via DemCast will be infused with (or in line with) a message of Democratic unity.