Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin is set to take a leading position with House Democrats’ campaign arm, becoming the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s first-ever organizing chair.
Raskin, a progressive who represents the Maryland suburbs and was the lead prosecutor in President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, will help shape the field and digital organizing strategies for the party as Democrats try to buck history and hold on to a slender House majority during the 2022 midterms.
The DCCC is partnering with Raskin to massively expand his Democracy Summer program, part of a reorganization of the committee’s organizing efforts. Its goals include integrating traditional fieldwork with digital campaigning lessons learned from the 2020 cycle when COVID-19 restricted in-person campaigning, as well as focusing on long-term goals rather than just short-term electoral victories.
“I sort of distinguish between organizing and mobilizing,” Raskin told HuffPost in an interview. “I think that the party’s been great at mobilizing people to go vote, but organizing is more of the long-term, sustained community engagement that builds big power over a period of time.”
As part of the plan, the DCCC is moving all of its field staff, mobilization staff and portions of its digital and voter protection teams under the umbrella of a new organizing department, led by committee veteran Pavitra Abraham. The goal is to make the committee ― which has traditionally focused first and foremost on fundraising and airing television ads ― more involved in building up the ranks and skills of Democratic organizers.
“We’re taking much more of a comprehensive approach,” Abraham said. “We’re talking about long-term infrastructure-building, skill-building, pipeline-building. We’re trying to be less siloed and more integrated.”
I think that the party’s been great at mobilizing people to go vote, but organizing is more of the long-term, sustained community engagement that builds big power over a period of time. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.)
The Democracy Summer program, which Raskin has run on his own campaign since he was in the state legislature, combines educational sessions on the history of social change in America with two days a week of on-the-ground organizing work in fellows’ home states or districts. (A letter Raskin wrote to his House colleagues inviting them to participate said fellows would receive a “modest stipend.”)
More than 1,000 high school and college students in the mid-Atlantic region have participated in Raskin’s program, and the DCCC said multiple campaigns have already expressed interest in the national version.
“This has blossomed into something huge,” Raskin said. “It speaks to people’s desire to make politics a far more reflective and educational thing.”
Some Democrats have questioned the party’s decision to forgo in-person organizing during the pandemic, arguing that the lack of face-to-face voter contact inhibited the party and contributed to Democratic losses in multiple razor-thin House contests.
“COVID-19 has definitely hurt Democratic Party efforts because we are a party that thrives on face-to-face contact,” Raskin said, while noting he’s not certain if any specific losses can be attributed to the decision to limit canvassing. “It’s been difficult for us.”
Raskin joins vice-chairs Texas Rep. Marc Veasey and California Reps. Ami Bera and Linda Sanchez, and Chair New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney on the committee’s leadership team.
Democrats have a slim 219-211 majority in the House, and while the political battlefield won’t be set until states draw district lines later this year, the party out of power in Washington, D.C., historically gains dozens of seats in midterm elections.