How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez List Builds for Her Allies

“A rising tide lifts all the boats…”

President John F. Kennedy

If you’re running a political organization, you are (or ought to be) in the business of list building. At every opportunity, you should be working on getting your supporters to opt into your campaign’s or cause’s communications.

As your list grows, so does your power: your power to organize, your ability to shape the narrative, and your ability to fundraise.

But too often, conservative campaigns and causes see list building as either a zero-sum game — where there’s an imperative to hoard your list and keep it to yourself.

In reality, that could not be further from the truth.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the Capitol in Washington. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the Capitol in Washington. (Photo Credit: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Earlier this month, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–NY) showcased an alternative list building model rooted in the concept that a rising tide can lift all boats. 

Capitalizing on an advantageous news cycle that played into one of her campaign’s core narratives, Ocasio-Cortez launched a petition microsite called paid for (and this is important) by “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Congress.”

The site does not solicit donations. Instead, it asks supporters to sign a petition and then share that petition to their social networks to extend its reach as widely as possible.

The goal is email acquisition, pure and simple.


But while the page is paid for by Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign, signing the petition opts you into the email lists of seventeen (‼️) ideologically-aligned campaigns and causes.

Here’s the page’s fine print:

By signing this petition you agree to receive periodic updates on activism opportunities from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Randy Bryce, Blue Future, Social Security Works, Sunrise Movement, Be A Hero, Progress America, Center for Popular Democracy, Working Families Party, Justice Democrats, Common Defense, Women's March, LeftNet, and Movement School.

This sort of email acquisition campaign is a common Democrat email acquisition tactic, and it’s useful.

As of this writing, these seventeen organizations have each opted 115,000+ emails into their lists — achieving far greater reach, and faster growth, than any of them likely would have achieved independently. 

This approach is rooted in the belief that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that broader and deeper involvement in the larger progressive community increases supporter engagement. 

Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez do not believe that they are diluting their email list by sharing it with their allies. On the contrary, they believe it makes their list stronger.

It's these sorts of philosophical differences, as much as any technology, that contributes to Democrat campaigns continued down-ballot online fundraising strength. Conservatives should take note and adjust accordingly.