The Resistance Has Already Started — And It’s Nasty

Meet the folks who are fighting back against fringe attacks on the Democratic Party

(Kathryn Jones Porter of Broken Anchor Photography)

Democrats in 2017 have their work cut out for them. They face an onslaught of infighting from the fringe wing of their party, while combatting an administration that seems not only hellbent on undoing the legacy of our former President, but would like to see our country taken to depths unlike anything we’ve ever experienced.

But hope is not lost.

A not-so-silent band of individuals, who view their mission through a lens akin to superheroes fighting crime, have taken it upon themselves to launch an offensive. However, unlike Tony Stark who uses his Iron Man suit to fly around the world and fight baddies, these modern-day Avengers are using their mastery of organization and strategy, and launching a Super PAC dedicated to confronting the social issues & disinformation campaigns that currently plague us.

With professional backgrounds in law, public policy, and organizing non-profits — this justice league feels that they are uniquely qualified to assemble a team that triumphs over the vastly more powerful, over-funded, and with a decades long head-start in experience, opposition.

So who exactly is this team that likens their mission to that of superheroes in scope? And why do they possess the confidence, or perhaps it’s over-confidence, to think that they can actually stand up to forces, that they surely view as Super Villian-esque in magnitude while being dishearteningly out-gunned and out-manned?

Named with characteristic flair, they call themselves “Bringing Nasty PAC,” and we landed an interview with NastyPAC’s very own Captain America, Candice Aiston.

Check it out below:

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Why are you starting this PAC?

I’m frustrated that really great Democratic candidates have been slammed in the kneecaps Tonya Harding style, often by people on the left, using Republican talking points. From Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama to Cory Booker to Kamala Harris, I have seen really great Democrats have their records misrepresented or a naïve, unnuanced understanding of the issues used to tear them down. Women and people of color are the most common victims of these attacks. Somehow, the right has figured out how to sow seeds of discord on the left so that we destroy our candidates ourselves.

The right is able to do this to us because they have millions of dollars to work with to pay for these subtle attack campaigns that you see on Facebook and Twitter where masses of trolls are spreading lies and misinformation and the constant drip of bad information combined with misogyny and racism eager to eat it all up makes many people on the left believe it.

A couple of months ago, I was frustratedly venting to friends about all of this and I said that I wished I could start a Super PAC that fought back against this phenomenon. Friends thought it was a great idea, and then my friend David Wojciechowski contacted me and said, “How do we make this happen?” So we researched it and filed the paperwork. From there, we had all this interest within our friend group from people wanting to help. We brought Laura Zlatos on board as a Board Member. Liz Kersjes offered to do all of our branding and graphic design work and is now on our Board of Directors. We are still growing our team. So, this was really sparked by an idea to combat a frustrating issue, and passionate, intelligent, dedicated people coming together and making it happen.

Could you tell me a bit about the people behind Bringing Nasty PAC?

I am a lawyer in Portland, Oregon. My day job involves legal planning for estates and businesses. I have always been interested and engaged in politics and have been a Democrat since I first registered to vote. My B.A. is a Political Science with a focus on Legal Studies degree.

David has a Master’s in Public Policy. He lives in Washington D.C. and has several years of advocacy experience on Capitol Hill. Laura is a writer in Brooklyn, NY who works in the non-profit sector by day. She has an MFA in Playwriting and an MA in Performance Studies with a focus on Gender and Sexuality Studies. Liz is a marketing professional in Chicago with a background in journalism and a Master’s degree in Political Science and Sociology. She is heavily involved in local and state-level political activism and volunteers with the Chicago Democratic Party.

How will the PAC spend the money it raises?

Right now, everyone is working on a volunteer basis and costs are being paid out of pocket. We are able to hire interns who can get college credit for working with us. We want to eventually be able to pay full-time employees and spend money on sophisticated research, polling, and data analysis; messaging, communications, and public relations; and moving this from a small-scale national-candidate operation to a large-scale fifty-state operation that assists our candidates at the local level. So in the short term, money will be spent on small costs like maintaining a website. But we do hope to grow to be able to turn a significant amount of energy to our work.

What do you think about the schism in the Democratic Party, how should the party move forward?

I don’t think that there is a true schism. The Democratic party has always been a coalition of different kinds of people; politically speaking, they range from extremely liberal to conservative. The problem right now is that we have outsiders who are telling a particularly small faction of the party that they aren’t getting their way because of corruption, when it’s actually just because they are a small faction and you don’t win elections catering to a small faction. The party should move forward by being honest about this and by focusing on its base, which is women and people of color whose political leanings vary from very liberal to conservative, but who stick with the party because it has fought for civil rights since the 60s. We should reframe conversations about progressive issues into what we can accomplish, rather than the specific route to take. For example, our platform should say that healthcare is a human right. It shouldn’t say that single-payer is the way to go. Single-payer is an avenue to take to get there, but there are roadblocks, and so we have to look at other ways. When you look at what other countries are doing, it’s very heartening! Most don’t have a single-payer system. Most have a hybrid system that is achievable in the United States. We need to educate our voters about these issues so they don’t get caught up in slogans.

How will the PAC decide which candidates to endorse?

I don’t know that we’ll necessarily endorse candidates. We will be embarking on campaigns to support the candidates that we think are important, but not through endorsements. We will mainly be seeking to fight back against attacks and lies that we see about the candidates. We will likely choose candidates in 2018 who are running close races nationally; and we will start trying to predict who will run for president in 2020 and seek to support them as well. Our focus is on promising women and people of color. While our PAC is small and underfunded, we will likely just agree as a Board which issues and candidates to focus on. We will have to grow to adopt a more efficient system as we grow as a PAC. I’d like to see us have regional and state leaders who can really tell us what people in their area are wanting in the way of candidate support. For example, in my city, Portland, Oregon, I believe we have what it takes to run candidates who are further to the left than in the South or Midwest, but it is not really happening that way. We want to support what Democrats want at those state and regional levels.

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When deciding which candidates to support, how will the PAC handle the call for political purity that comes from certain factions of the Democratic Party?

We will not adhere to any calls for political purity. We will support women candidates and candidates of color who are Democrats and who support the rights of women and people of color. We are not particularly drawn to any candidates who are married to specific ways to achieve broader goals. For example, we want our candidates to agree that healthcare is a human right. We don’t care how they think the best way to get there is. Beyond that, I think we hope to pay attention to what Democratic voters are wanting at their state and regional levels. What works in Portland, Oregon may not work in Dallas, Texas.

How do you combat the right wing media machine?

With a lot of money and dedication. Also: Money. We honestly need people working on this full time, and I hope that we can get the funding we need to make this happen. We need to be able to compile all of the research and data that their PACs are able to compile, and we need to be able to embark on the same types of information campaigns that they are. We need to be in all of the places where our audience is gathering information. It’s a very complex world nowadays, with the internet leading the information exchange. The election of Trump and appointment of Gorsuch and who knows whichever other Justices on the Supreme Court means that we are set back several decades in being able to stop the existence of Super PACs. That’s why we had to start one to fight back.

How do you combat foreign operatives disseminating false information against your candidates?

We will have to do it in the same way we fight attacks from Republicans. Beat them at the information game. This is a really frightening new part of politics now. We thought Citizen’s United was a terrible ruling. Well, it’s here to stay now, but even if it could be overturned, that doesn’t stop foreign interference into our election. There is really nothing that can stop them if Trump and Republicans aren’t willing to stop them. It’s up to We the People to fight lies with truth.

Heading into the 2018 elections, in what ways do you think the Democratic Party can improve their messaging? Electoral strategy?

I think our messaging has been fine up until after the election. It wasn’t our messaging that made us lose the 2016 presidential election. It was voter suppression, as well as foreign and far right influence that exploited misogyny and racism to tear down our candidate with fake news and lies. But since the election, our party has veered dangerously in the direction of abandoning women and people of color to chase the white working class. Let’s be clear — Clinton won the working class; she lost with WHITE working class voters. We have a lot of polling data that tells us that white working class voters rejected our candidate because they voted on issues involving race (terrorism and immigration). These are the voters we’ve seen various Democratic leaders saying that they want to chase. But if they’re voting based on race issues, Democrats will have to out-racist Republicans in order to gain their support. That means alienating our base of women and people of color. It’s a losing strategy, not to mention a terrible moral decision. And so I think that Democrats need to be data-driven and understand that our message is and was good. We won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and even picked up House and Senate seats. We over-performed in the special elections. We had the most progressive, thorough policy platform in history. And yes, we were the “Not Trump” party. It really doesn’t get better than that unless you’re making promises you can’t keep. In my view, we need to double down on our support for marginalized people. We need to keep talking about striving for universal healthcare and affordable quality education, among other issues, but not get bogged down with promises about how we’ll get there. And most importantly, we need to fight voter suppression. We have a lot of data that tells us that several of our losing states would have been won if not for massive voter suppression.

Who is leading the Resistance? Who is hurting it?

I could name about 20 white male journalists who are hurting the Resistance with continuous fetishizing of the white working class and criticism of “identity politics” (other than white working class, of course). Bernie is definitely hurting the Resistance and so are Bernie-affiliated groups like Our Revolution and Justice Democrats. They are watering down our commitment to civil rights, and they are actively seeking to weaken Democrats by threatening to primary them for not supporting single-payer.

The leaders of the Resistance are women and people of color. In politics, we have Maxine Waters, Nancy Pelosi, Ted Lieu, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, John Lewis, to name a few. In media, we have Joy Reid, Charles Blow, Rachel Maddow, and other smaller publications and podcasts like those by Marcus Johnson, James Holder, Sarah Lerner, for example. And you have a whole army of women and people of color who are protesting, calling legislators, and speaking out in other ways to resist, including by simply using their voices to speak out on social media. You also have thousands of women who have now decided to run for office. In my town of Portland, Oregon, even the school board races were exciting, with women who had never been involved in politics winning races by running campaigns based on protecting students of color, immigrants, and Muslims.

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Interview // Democrats / Politics / Resistance / Women