One of the most recognized liberal grassroots organizations has shuttered its doors, marking the end of an era in progressive politics.
Born out of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid, Democracy for America was considered a gold standard in liberal circles for over two decades, helping over 1,000 liberal candidates.
The group, however, struggled over time to raise money and to compete for dollars with the rise of other left-leaning organizations such as Our Revolution and Justice Democrats, who went after many of the same donors.
DFA concluded after the 2022 midterms that it did not have enough money to keep the lights on.
Politico reported earlier this month that DFA was on track to shut down and employees were notified their last day would be Dec. 15.
The decision came days after Yvette Simpson, the CEO of Democracy for America, said on Twitter she was moving on from her job, crediting DFA with playing a hand in sending former President Donald Trump “packing” in 2020, stopping the red wave in 2022 and “dealing a strong blow to election deniers across the country.”
“It’s now time to turn the page and begin writing the next one,” she said.
Ms. Simpson faced criticism from employees who applauded much of what she did but felt she left them in the dark about the group’s dire financial situation and lacked the necessary urgency of action to turn things around.
Ms. Simpson notified employees in November that they needed to raise over $300,000 before the end of the year to stay afloat.
Ms. Simpson took the reins in 2019 from Jim Dean, brother of Howard Dean.
Jim Dean told The Cincinnati Inquirer that Ms. Simpson is not to blame for DFA’s closure.
“We have never, in the 18 years of our existence, never were flush with cash,” he said. “There was never any huge cushion. I’m a little bit surprised that seemed to be lost on the staff, because some of these folks had been there for a while and been there when we had cash shortages. It wasn’t the first time that’s happened.”
Charles Chamberlain, a special advisor to DFA, confirmed the PAC was closing and indicated the nonprofit would stay open, according to Politico.
Pete D’Alessandro, a Democratic strategist who served as a top aide to Sen. Bernard Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, was disappointed to hear the news.
“It was always an endorsement if you were a progressive candidate you went for and were proud to get,” Mr. D’Alessandro said.
DFA endorsed Mr. Sanders’s presidential campaign in 2016 and 2020.
“However, there is only so much money to pool,” he said. “There are these other progressive groups that have filled at least some of the lane DFA is filling.”
Others said there also is a sense that some people simply need a break from the neverending campaigning and being bombarded with nonstop fundraising emails from campaigns, their political action committees and allied groups.
Taken together, it has led to some donor fatigue, making fundraising all the more important.
“I think we were better when they were there and we would be better if they were still there,” Mr. D’Alessandro said.