Now, about eight months after Election Day, Hoffman still believes that the Democratic Party hasn't figured out how to pick up the pieces.
"I think it's nearly certain that it hasn't learned the lessons of 2016 yet," he told me days before WTF launched. "There are some very great voices. ... But as an overall whole, as a party, I think they're, frankly, still getting their act together on presenting a coherent view of the future that they want to build to."
Of course, WTF is hardly the first well-wired — or well-heeled — attempt to bolster the Democratic Party at a moment of apparent character crisis. Among the most infamous is MoveOn.org, the hyper-progressive political organization launched in the 1990s at first to defend then-President Bill Clinton from impeachment. Later, MoveOn.org became a resonant force in national politics, not least because of its fierce opposition to the war in Iraq — and the lawmakers who voted to authorize it.
"MoveOn was a model," Pincus said. "Wes Boyd put up a web page because he was pissed off. He had no plan, and he happened to have a 'Donate' button."
"MoveOn sent a very big message to the Democratic Party that they were not listening to a lot of people," he continued. "So, really, the big question is, can we be a vehicle for a lot of people to express a voice, and then by giving them a way to aggregate their voices, shift the power?"
As a general rule, Pincus told me in June, WTF aspires to be "pro-social [and] pro-planet, but also pro-business and pro-economy." The exact direction is up to its supporters, who can steer the organization through the campaigns they choose and promote, but it doesn't necessarily mean that WTF seeks to push Democrats further to the political left.
"I'm fearful the Democratic Party is already moving too far to the left," Pincus said. "I want to push the Democratic Party to be more in touch with mainstream America, and on some issues, that's more left, and on some issues it might be more right."
What WTF isn't: "Pro-politician," Pincus said. "So we'd like to see either political outsiders or politicians who are ready to put the people ahead of their career."
At first, Pincus planned to pitch potential supporters on challenging Pelosi, an audacious move at a time when insurgent Democrats are wondering if her leadership in the House has given Republicans too much opportunity to go on the attack. Days before the launch of WTF, however, the Zynga leader opted against proposing such a plan. (Asked if he backed a fight to unseat Pelosi, Hoffman told me hours earlier he was "waiting to see," but stressed that he's "certainly not opposed to it.")
Also on Pincus's potential target list: California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who he derided as a "career politician." Feinstein also isn't an introductory target for WTF, but Pincus said he's already had conversations with folks like Jenkins, the frontman of Third Eye Blind, about someday challenging her. Hoffman plans to have his own conversations with potential candidates, but declined to name any of his ideal recruits during an interview.
In the end, WTF could find itself on a collision course with long-established, well-funded Democratic interests like the DNC, which attracts the lion's share of fundraising dollars every election cycle, and serves as the primary conduit for bolstering office-seekers across the country.
And that's precisely the point. "I think part of the thing is to say, look, we're not about politics as usual," Hoffman said. "We have little patience for that on both sides. And so it may end up being some clash with the Democratic Party, but I think that's also part of what millennials and a swath of Americans want."
Whether the aftershock meaningfully reshapes what it means to be a Democrat, however, is the true existential question — one that faces not only Pincus and Hoffman and WTF, but the entirety of the anti-Trump resistance still maturing in tech hotbeds like Silicon Valley.
There are groups that newly seek to topple conservatives in congressional districts, invest in new campaign-tech startups, prop up more diverse federal candidates and empower state and local office-seekers who have struggled to use modern-day digital tools, and they all face the same fundamental challenge in penetrating and changing the Democratic Party's official organs. Even Hillary Clinton exited the 2016 presidential election exasperated by the DNC. Even DNC veterans — upset with her comments — acknowledge that the party still has much work to do.
To Pincus, at least, there's reason for hope. "Maybe they don't go in a back room in a Doubletree Hotel and emerge and tell us what they agreed is the party platform," he said. "Maybe there are some people in there who walk in and represent millions of peoples' wishes of what the agenda would be."
"It's not so much that we want to fight the Democratic Party, because we ultimately want to see Democrats win," he later told me. "But we would like to challenge the way that it works."
—By Tony Romm, Re/code.net.
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