Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

In Colorado, ProgressNow is Trying To Recreate That Map-Changing Political Magic

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, October 29 2012

ProgressNow Colorado is sharing images like this on Facebook to remind liberals to vote Image: ProgressNow

Liberal group ProgressNow, which has worked to build political power for the left in Colorado over the past decade by mobilizing activists online and offline with new media tools, launched a new Facebook campaign over the weekend with the cheeky URL: "Voteorstfu."

Like dozens of other political efforts currently underway on Facebook, the effort is meant to galvanize the group's supporters and their friends to get to the polls. Early voting began in Colorado last Monday.

The thinking behind the page is that citizens haven't earned their right comment on the results of the 2012 election if they didn't vote.

The page offers infographics and other visuals to share on Facebook that encourage people to vote. The campaign is based on internal research from ProgressNow that told the group that undecided voters often turn to their friends for thoughts on how they should vote, rather than to television. TechPresident has noted similar research made public earlier this year. (Ironically, recent new stories reported late last week that Colorado is the top recipient in terms of television ad campaign dollars.)

"I definitely feel that Facebook is the number-one tool that is underutilized right now," said Joanne Schwartz, Progress Now's executive director, in an interview. "And part of the reason why it's underutilized is that it takes grassroots work, because people are only going to trust information coming from their friends -- they're not going to trust ads coming from Facebook."

So far, the campaign is not exactly an instant viral hit. Facebook reports that only 65 people "liked" the page, and 222 people are talking about it.

Nevertheless, the group shouldn't be underestimated. As described by authors Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer in their 2010 book "The Blueprint: How Democrats Won Colorado," ProgressNow has played a major part in redefining the political conversation in Colorado with its large email list and creative online and offline campaigns.

ProgressNow has worked aggressively in the past year to frame the conversation both around the presidential ticket as well as around its congressional candidates and state legislature. (And in addition to its Facebook page, the group aims to educate and engage voters through, an online resource that provides Coloradans information on everything they need to know to go and vote.)

ProgressNow combines offline action with online to generate publicity to frame issues the way they want them to be framed. For example, the group has sent out activists to take actions every time GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney visit the state.

When Ryan arrived mid-August at an event in Lakewood, a city in electorally important Jefferson County for example, to speak about fiscal issues, some national and local press coverage focused instead on a prank pulled by ProgressNow activists who had signed up to attend under variations of the name "Fertilized Egg" to underscore Ryan's opposition to abortion.

ProgressNow also borrowed a tactic from MoveOn and paid for a plane to fly a banner over the event that read: “Hey girl. Choose me. Lose choice. P. Ryan,” adopting the language of now-legendary Internet creature Paul Ryan Gosling.

That was just one stunt that the group has pulled over the past election year. But the goal clearly is to steer the conversation and voters' attention to subject matters that might turn them off the Republican ticket, just like Democrats did in 2010 when they helped Democrat Michael Bennet win a Senate seat and just as the Obama campaign is attempting to do now.

Other tactics include trying to use their knowledge of pop culture to get mentioned on Twitter by celebrities so that people who don't normally follow politics might pick something up.

For example, during the period when the state legislature was considering a bill that would have sanctioned civil unions, ProgressNow tweeted at Kenneth Faried, a player for the Denver Nuggets who has two mothers. He ended up retweeting one of the group's tweets supporting civil unions.

Nevertheless, despite all of ProgressNow's work over the years, polls show that Colorado could swing either for Romney or Obama, despite Obama having won the state in 2008.

Schwartz says that she's keenly aware of the pressure on activists in the state to maintain support for Democrats.

"Definitely the presidential campaign is taking a lot of energy, given the strong importance of Colorado," she says. "The pressure this year seems to be much higher."

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

NY Study Shows How Freedom of Information Can Inform Open Data

On New York State's open data portal, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has around 40 data resources of varying sizes, such as maps of lakes and ponds and rivers, bird conservation areas and hiking trails. But those datasets do not include several data resources that are most sought after by many New York businesses, a new study from advocacy group Reinvent Albany has found. Welcome to a little-discussed corner of so-called "open government"--while agencies often pay lip service to the cause, the data they actually release is sometimes nowhere close to what is most wanted. GO

Responding to Ferguson, Activists Organize #NMOS14 Vigils Across America In Just 4 Days

This evening peaceful crowds will gather at more than 90 locations around the country to honor the victims of police brutality, most recently the unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday. A moment of silence will begin at 20 minutes past 7 p.m. (EST). The vigils are being organized almost entirely online by the writer and activist Feminista Jones (@FeministaJones), with help from others from around the country who have volunteered to coordinate a vigil in their communities. Organizing such a large event in only a few days is a challenge, but in addition to ironing out basic logistics, the National Moment of Silence (#NMOS14) organizers have had to deal with co-optation, misrepresentation, and Google Docs and Facebook pages that are, apparently, buckling under traffic.


wednesday >

NDI Launches Open Source DemTools for International Development

Yesterday the National Democratic Institute launched a suite of web-based applications created for their partner organizations, mostly pro-democracy groups and political parties around the world. These “DemTools,” which are ready-to-use but can also be customized, will give organizations in developing countries some of the capabilities that political activists and parties in the United States have had for years. Moreover, since the National Democratic Institute (NDI) is making the promise to host partner organization's applications in the cloud essentially forever, they hope these applications will help usher in a period of more sustainable tech.