Our path forward on Nationbuilder and Trump

holly Blog

Last week, we shared a post talking about the concerns some progressive campaigners have expressed  as a result of some comments by the CEO of Nationbuilder.

Jim Gilliam’s blog post congratulating Donald Trump on his election was poorly thought out, and made a lot of progressives–us included–feel very uneasy and uncertain.

The reaction to our post offering a list of alternatives to Nationbuilder generated a lot of discussion, and raised a lot of strong opinions. We’ve posted a number of those comments below.

Some people felt passionately that progressives shouldn’t be supporting a company that works with Donald Trump. Others made strong arguments that Nationbuilder is an affordable, accessible platform–available equally to anyone. A number of individuals also pointed out that many of the companies and tools we work with everyday day–Facebook, Apple, Google–also work indiscriminately with political movements of all stripes.

Campaigns for progress and values shouldn’t be limited by their choice of tools – but they should have a choice.

To be sure, Nationbuilder is a great toolkit supported by a great team of people in both Canada and the US. Their staff are often at progressive events and meetings, contributing to the critical conversation about digital organizing, and how to do that work better.

As a product, Nationbuilder is easily accessible–both technically and financially. There’s zero doubt that’s a good thing.

We’re troubled, however, that the company’s leadership was so congratulatory of a candidate many of us find appalling and scary. We’ve also found ourselves asking whether perhaps Jim Gilliam should have drawn the line, and perhaps refused to work with a candidate that crossed so many lines.

nFor us, this is the path forward:

We’ll continue to support causes and movements who use Nationbuilder and continue to build new Nationbuilder projects for any progressive cause that wants to use the tool.We’re also working to identify a values-aligned, affordable alternative that we can recommend to our clients. We’re talking to some of the top campaigners and vendors so that we can identify and offer an alternative that works here in Canada, meets people’s needs, and helps them win. At our core, we think that campaigns for progress and values shouldn’t be limited by their choice of tools–but they should have a choice.

Thanks for the thoughtful discussion everyone.

Nathan Lusignan is the Managing Partner of Point Blank Creative. Michael Roy is the Digital Director of Point Blank Creative.

Here are a few of the opinions expressed in response to the post and this discussion in general:

“I heard some senior Trump advisors used Apple products. Is there an alternative?”

“I get that business is business, but sending out an email celebrating Trump’s victory was weird. Like, of all organizations, NB should know their audience.”

“I think it’s ridiculous to suggest we stop using certain tools just because our enemies use them.”

“I think [he] has hit on the big difference between NB’s business model to FB or Apple, and why this all feels uncomfortable. NB is small enough, and while we all wish they were more responsive to requests, they do make improvements based on our user feedback. So if a progressive client helps them improve the platform, that improvement is used by white supremacists to more effectively further their goals of oppressing people of colour, due to their business model.”

“Having helped NB innovate and develop a feature that I later learned helped them sign on the RNC for a contract, it does make me feel weird to use their platform and make it better. As I’ve said, throw in Gilliam’s blog post, and it makes me feel even weirder.”

“If you believe using NationBuilder helped Trump then you necessarily believe the reverse, that Trump inadvertently funded hundreds of environmental, First Nations, and progressive activists that use the platform too.”