During his farewell address in January, President Obama said that “change only happens when ordinary people get involved and they get engaged, and they come together to demand it.” Now, six months out of office, he has proven that he is still committed to making change happen.
Obama has teamed up with former Attorney General Eric Holder to lead a group focused on undoing the partisan gerrymandering that has made it difficult for Democrats to win state elections. The group has been dubbed the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC).
According to the committee’s website, its members are currently “building a targeted, state-by-state strategy that ensures Democrats can fight back and produce fairer maps in the 2021 redistricting process.”
President Obama decried the negative effects of gerrymandering repeatedly during his eight years in office, as he oversaw massive losses for the Democratic Party in the House and in state legislatures. During his 2016 State of the Union speech, he called on lawmakers and the American people to speak out against partisan gerrymandering.
‘If we want a better politics, it’s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a President. We have to change the system to reflect our better selves. I think we’ve got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.’
Obama may not have been able to change the system while in office, but the NDRC is now well on its way to make some much-needed improvements. In the last six months, according to POLITICO, the NDRC has received $10.8 million in donations.
The money has come in the form of both large and small donations from 10,000 people. The group received an influx of individual donations following the November election, and it has also received funding from a federal PAC and 501c3 and 501c4 entities.
Major donors to the committee include Chicago’s Fred Eychaner and Florida’s Donald Sussman, who each gave $500,000; activist Jon Stryker, who gave $200,000; and director J.J. Abrams and his wife, actress Katie McGrath, who each gave $125,000.
Many of the donations came through briefings that were conducted by Holder, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington. President Obama also headlined an event in Washington earlier this month, which brought in significant donations.
Even with over $10 million at their disposal, the committee is expected to face a number of difficulties as it goes up against well-funded interests all over the country and attempts to change the balance of power. The odds are especially stacked against the NDRC in heavily gerrymandered states like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. However, the committee is feeling confident about their journey going forward.
Holder told POLITICO about the group’s plans:
‘The NDRC’s significant fundraising in its first six months will allow us to take on gerrymandering and reform our electoral system. This will be done through our courts, at the ballot box, and through support of ballot initiatives that create non-partisan commissions and other electoral reforms.’
Featured image via Steffi Loos/Getty Images.