The 2016 cycle was the fourth presidential cycle I have been intimately involved in. The first was in 2004. I was in college at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. I remember sitting in the living room of the house I shared with 4 close friends, watching the returns come in on that rainy November night. The Presidential race basically came down to Cincinnati – to the very neighborhoods I had been canvassing in earlier that day. I was devastated. I felt determined and frustrated and empowered all at one time. The feeling I remember most clearly was being so excited to wake up the next day and get to work.
And I did! I jumped out of bed the next morning ready to fight like hell. There were lots of college students around me that felt the same. We started new clubs, engaged new students, and tried new things. We were fired up.
The next week, we were still fired up. But a little less so. And the next week, a little less. A year after the campaign, my life did not look remarkably different than it had before. I cared and I wanted to make the world better – but I also had class and a future to plan for and no real incentive to continue fighting. I saw the same thing in South Carolina in January of 2008 the day after we lost New Hampshire. I saw the same thing at Organizing for America after passing the ACA.
This cycle is a terrible one. We miss the moment to build on that amazing energy that people feel after a huge moment in politics – win or loss. We need to figure out how to capture that energy rather than watch it die out.
We have to bounce back differently. Rather than wait until the day after Election Day to start asking “What’s Next?”, we need to build between cycles and be ready to capture that energy when it rises up. That is part of why I am creating Higher Ground Labs. In a cycle like this, technology suffers the most. Losing momentum means we have to start over each cycle. The start up costs are incredibly high and the opportunity cost of operating at a technical deficit is clearer every year.
As passionate activists and savvy investors who understand the consequences of this cyclical approach, we are launching Higher Ground Labs. This company can build the ecosystem necessary to sustain energy and technical talent where we otherwise find a void. The tools we build and entrepreneurs we support can change the landscape for campaigns and position us to lead on innovation, rather than try desperately to keep up.
There are dozens of people like me who are poised to change the world the day after Election Day. Higher Ground Labs can make sure their enthusiasm doesn’t die out three weeks later. We’re reinforcing the movement.