Democracy For America (DFA) is a political action committee dedicated to building “a grassroots network of socially progressive and fiscally responsible activists running for all levels of office — from the school board to the Presidency.” Established by former Vermont Governor and current Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean, DFA seeks to fight “against the influence of the far right-wing and their radical, divisive policies and the selfish special interests that for too long have dominated our politics.”
From its inception, DFA announced its intent “to help defeat George W. Bush and his agenda in 2004” by working to influence voters in “key battleground states, mobilizing our supporters and the groundbreaking organizing tools we developed during our campaign — planting seeds on the Internet, meeting face to face at the grassroots, bringing new people into the process.” Placing its support behind John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, DFA aimed to establish itself as a force that would eventually “influence the Democratic Party in much the way that conservatives helped to reshape the Republican Party more than 20 years ago.”
During each election cycle, DFA compiles a list of the political candidates it will actively support. In 2006 the organization endorsed 54 progressive state and local candidates, including Bernie Sanders, the only openly socialist member of the U.S. Senate. In 2005 DFA gave 37 endorsements, and the year before that it gave 91, including one to Democratic Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Each year, Howard Dean selects 12 key candidates, known as the “Dirty Dozen,” whose campaigns he personally works to help most aggressively.
DFA’s long-term goal is to rebuild the Democratic Party base. Toward this end, the organization runs a Training Academy that has taught more than 10,000 activists nationwide how to “focus, network, and train grassroots activists in the skills and strategies to take back our country.” The DFA training curriculum has sections titled “Building a Grassroots Army,” “Leveraging Blogs and Online Media,” and “Building Progressive Coalitions.” DFA also hosts a blog and a community message board, known as DFA-Link, where progressive activists can correspond and organize. This online network consists of some 41,000 members.
DFA is chaired by Jim Dean, brother of Howard Dean. Jim previously worked on Howard’s 2004 presidential campaign and served as a fundraiser for Howard during his eleven years as Governor of Vermont and four years as Lieutenant Governor.
DFA is a supporting member of AmericaSaysNo.org (ASN), a network (organized by True Majority and Win Without War) of organizations opposed to President Bush’s 2007 decision to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq by about 21,500. DFA’s fellow ASN supporting members include: the American Friends Service Committee; Code Pink for Peace; Feminist Majority Foundation; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; National Organization for Women; the Peace Action Network; Physicians for Social Responsibility; Progressive Democrats of America; Sojourners; United For Peace and Justice; and Women’s Action for New Directions.
In March 2007, during the period marking the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, DFA (along with True Majority, MoveOn, and Progressive Democrats of America) organized candlelight vigils across the United States to protest America’s role in the conflict.
DFA is a member group of America Votes, a national coalition of grassroots, get-out-the-vote organizations. In the 2006 mid-term election, DFA partnered with MoveOn.org in conducting a get-out-the-vote telephone campaign on behalf of Democratic candidates nationwide.
In July 2015, DFA announced that it would thenceforth require all presidential candidates to state, on DFA endorsement questionnaires, their positions on the “Black Lives Matter” movement and their plans for addressing America’s structural racism and its “culture of white supremacy.” “As an organization that is largely white-led and that has a membership that’s predominately white, we feel it’s extremely important that we seize this moment to stand up with the organizers of the Movement for Black Lives in taking structural racism head on,” DFA executive director Charles Chamberlain told the Huffington Post. “We need white candidates talking to white people about the Movement for Black Lives. We need to talk to each other if we’re going to move America forward,” Chamberlain added.
That same month, DFA also announced its intent to help elect more nonwhite political leaders, citing a Reflective Democracy Campaign study which found that “90% of the 42,000 office holders in the U.S. are white and 65% are white men.” It was vital for Americans to elect more people “reflective of the very voters that are electing them to office,” said Chamberlain.