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Message Box Turns 3: Here's What Comes Next
After 3 years of building this community, I am gearing up for 2024
I launched Message Box three years ago this month on a bit of a whim. Like the rest of the world, I was locked in my house. My plans to spend the election year traveling to battleground states with Pod Save America were upended by the pandemic. I had a lot of thoughts about the election that I wanted to explore in-depth. That can be challenging on social media and in a podcast covering the relentless day-to-day news of the campaign cycle. I love talking, thinking, and writing about politics. It’s an addiction. On more than one occasion, I tried to walk away and do something else, but always came back to politics because it matters — now more than ever.
In three years, this project expanded in ways I could not have imagined. The Message Box community is now more than 50,000 people strong — and growing.
Other than serving as a way to channel 2020 election anxiety, I started Message Box to test a theory of communications I had been working on since the 2014 midterm elections when I saw President Obama’s message get swamped by a burgeoning Right-Wing media machine and outrage-fueled social media algorithms. How people got their information had fundamentally changed, and progressives were now behind the eight ball in the information wars.
In 2020, I wrote something about the ideas behind this project:
For the last several years, I have been obsessing over a version of politics that leverages every supporter with a smartphone and a social presence and turns them into messengers who persuade voters and shift the political conversation to the left. This can only be accomplished if we treat our volunteers like political pros and offer them sophisticated political analysis, strategic advice, and specific guidance on how to communicate with the people in their personal networks. Message Box is intended to be a strategy memo for the masses whether you are running for office, working on a campaign, or trying to win this election one voter at a time on Facebook or via text.
The impetus for such a project has only grown in the last three years. It seems impossible, but the information ecosystem has gotten markedly worse over this short period. Elon Musk bought Twitter and turned it into a Right-Wing platform. Facebook prioritized news and politics. TikTok is a haven for misinformation and conspiracy theories. The traditional media is in dire financial straits. The pace of cord-cutting has increased — hurting the reach and stability of cable news. Local newspapers continue to disappear. Even the Washington Post is losing money like water through a sieve. We are in a state of crisis. It’s never been more difficult to follow the news or communicate with the public.
These changes affect Republicans less — for now — because they spent decades and billions building their own media machine to communicate directly with their voters.
2024 and Beyond
Message Box is a tiny part of narrowing this media gap, but this newsletter demonstrates that Democrats need to broaden our approach to communications. And in an election that will likely be decided by fewer people than attended a single Taylor Swift concert, every little bit matters, right?
I have big plans for the 2024 cycle — more writing, more engagement with subscribers, and more message advice and polling analysis for the people on the front lines fighting to save our democracy from MAGA Republicans.
I also want to help my subscribers sort through our disastrous news environment to access reliable information addressing the current state of politics in a condensed and curated fashion. Earlier this summer, I put out information guides on the second Trump indictment and the state of the Biden economy. I aim not just to inform my readers, but also to arm them for conversations with the persuadable voters in their lives. I am working to make these information guides a more regular feature.
I want to offer a special thank you to those of you who have chosen to become paid subscribers to this newsletter. Message Box is a 100% reader-supported endeavor and would not exist without you. If you have not yet become a paid subscriber — I hope you will consider doing so. Paid subscribers get access to all new posts, the full archive, and regular subscriber Q&A sessions. If you subscribe now, I will donate your first month’s subscription fee to Vote Save America’s No Off Years Fund to support grassroots organizations in states with key elections in 2023
My main reason for writing today is simply to show my appreciation to you for being part of this community, for reading what I write, and for everything you are doing to help preserve our democracy. I know we all hoped that the work would end when Trump lost, but now we understand why President Barack Obama used to say that “Citizenship is a full-time job.”