PFAW Update—Everything Worked!

by Michael Keegan, President, People for the American Way

What a week for our side. THANK YOU.

Not only was President Obama reelected handily, with an Electoral College victory larger than that of Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, and George W. Bush (both elections) and a popular vote victory margin of millions of votes, we also added some stellar new Senators (bringing the number of women Senators to 20), picked up a few seats in the House, and won important ballot initiatives–including a remarkable 4-for-4 run on marriage equality questions.

The Story of the Election: Latinos

I couldn’t be prouder of the role that People For the American Way played in making Tuesday a success. Most notably, the story of the night was the powerful impact of Latino voters. PFAW was right in the center of it with our first of its kind, comprehensive plan of TV and radio ads, direct mail and internet to get out the vote and communicate with Latino voters in six key swing states about Mitt Romney’s dangerous agenda, as well as the GOP’s extreme and offensive rhetoric about the Latino community. The result was overwhelming–President Obama won 3-to-1 among Latinos. Long story short: if Republicans think they can be a national party while demonizing Latinos and immigrants, it’s not just wrong, it’s stupid politics. We will stay in this fight.


At the same time, President Obama and progressive candidates benefited from an impressive show of support from women voters, and again PFAW was right in the thick of it where it mattered most. Just as we predicted, women voters in Ohio were crucial to the outcome of the election, and we spared no effort to make sure they knew how Mitt Romney’s agenda would hurt them. In particular, we used polling and focus group data to hone our message about how Mitt Romney’s Supreme Court wouldn’t just endanger reproductive freedom for women, it would make it harder to get fair pay on the job and a fair shake in general. With television ads, direct mail and targeted professional phone banks, we reached out to exactly the right voters to make a difference on Election Day by getting out to vote. This was a great way to bring PFAW’s now 31 years of work on the Supreme Court to a laser focus on a key group of voters in a critically important state.

Todd Akin and Friends

Finally, one of the happiest moments of election night came when Tea Party candidate Todd Akin was unceremoniously defeated in Missouri. While most Americans know Akin best for his outlandish comments about rape, PFAW’s Right Wing Watch team uncovered information about his decades long association with violent anti-abortion groups, including no fewer than eight instances in which Akin was arrested at abortion clinics. The New York Times cited the story as one of the defining narratives of the closing weeks of the election. We’re glad we could help hand him the defeat he so richly deserves. This was just the latest example of Right Wing Watch’s stellar work over the last 2 years, connecting Right Wing candidates with their extremist past and their radical allies.

In every case, PFAW’s work had a powerful impact on the outcome of the race.

African Americans and Young Voters to the Polls

Separately, People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council and Young People For did brilliant work in making sure that no matter who they voted for, every American got a chance to cast a vote. Despite a concerted effort to keep people away from the polls and countless predictions that young people and African Americans would stay home on Election Day, exit polls showed that African Americans turned out at the same or higher rates they did in 2008, and young people increased their participation. PFAW Foundation pulled out all the stops in order to help make that happen. With clergy trainings, Trick-or-Vote rallies, online recruitment tools, old fashioned handouts, buses, vans and automobiles, our Fellows and ministers left absolutely no stone unturned to make sure that every possible voter cast a ballot on or before election day.

Take the most-watched Ohio, for instance. Even with right-wing Secretary of State Jon Husted’s cutback on early voting hours, and a decrease in early voting turnout as a result, the African American share of the electorate increased from 11 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2012. And according to CBS News: “More African-Americans voted in Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida than in 2008.” PFAW Foundation is proud to have had a part in that.

On behalf of both PFAW and PFAW Foundation, I want to say thank you for all the support you’ve provided this year. None of it would be possible without your generosity and commitment.

Now we roll up our sleeves for the real work.  There’s plenty more work to be done to defend the values we care about, but I hope you’ll take a few moments to pause and celebrate just how much we’ve accomplished.