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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Whither the Swing State Project?

Posted by DavidNYC

Lately, a number of people have asked me, "What are you going to do with the Swing State Project after the election?" Given the relatively narrow focus of this site - it's right up there in the banner - it's a good question. I've thought about it a lot, though, and I don't have too many good answers. So I want to solicit some reader advice. These are some of the ideas so far:

1) Keep the site and focus on swing state activism. Even if there are no hot races for some time, we can always talk about ways to help people get involved in activism. (I'm sure ACT, for instance, will focus on this big-time in the off-years.) Of course, this would mean broadening the site to cover "swing" Senate, House and state/local races, but that's fine with me.

2) Start something new (though probably related), and redirect this site there.

3) Mission Accomplished - call it quits, job (hopefully) well done.

This site now gets pretty decent traffic, and I really enjoy the community that's formed here. I'd hate to see it all go, but I certainly wouldn't mind a break. If you have any other suggestions, please post in the comments.

Posted at 08:33 PM in Site News | Technorati


A new suggestion to add to your already thoughful list of suggestions:

Evaluation of data (aka "comments") seems a natural next step in this process. Compile all of the comments, consider them, and maybe some common themes would arise. They could be used as data for a research project . . .

My ideas are not totally coherent, I know. And, this would mean lots of work for you. Good luck with whatever you choose to do with the site.

Posted by: Abi Gaines at October 12, 2004 09:17 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

It is important that the progressive community develop long term strategies to counter the right wing and the constant misinformation that they force on the political dialogue.

Democrats tend to rev up only near an election while the Republicans plan for the long term. Regardless of what happens on November 2, we must put in place the infrastructure to frame the debates of the future.

Posted by: Wade at October 12, 2004 11:32 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I have a far more jaded view. If Kerry loses because of the Swing States, all I'll feel is that the Swing States will get what they deserve. They already got what they deserved out of the 2000 election--take a look at Ohio--and yet they are ready to vote for this guy again, because of "values".

I live in LA, in Hollywood even, and I'm sure that makes me "librul elite." Well, if I'm librul elite, I might as well be librul elite, so let me tell you what I really think. I've been involved in this election for a long time, and I'm kinda getting tired of banging my head against the wall for the sake of some still undecided grangers. (Who the f*ck can possibly be undecided at this point?) If Swing State voters value "values" and "terrurrr" (nobody in NY or LA thinks for one second about terrurr) above economic interests and social welfare, I say, go ahead and reap what you've sewn.

The midwest was a hotbed of liberalism for over a hundred years. The midwest produced great liberals, farmers who cared about farming, radical ideas from Free Silver to Farm Holidays. Then along came the culture wars--mostly on abortion and gaybashing, two fake issues that pander to the least educated--and all of a sudden all the grangers started voting for these fake "values" even over their own economic interests. I don't really feel much empathy for them anymore.

These people have been reacting to, even fighting, what they perceive to be a "librul elite" for the past 20 years. The funny thing is, we urban libruls have been totally defeated already--Republicans control the Senate, the House, the judiciary, the Executive, and most state legislatures. Yet the Swing State "values"-oriented reactionaries are still threatening to vote as though there is actually something to be reactionary about.

Like I say, my patience is exhausted. I've been working for five years, being nice, pretending to myself that the swing states have just had some bad luck, or something. It hasn't done scheiss to the polls to be nice and to pretend. Three weeks to go, and I am now saying, "You want to lose more jobs in the rust belt, and give tax breaks to the rich while your own kids can't afford to go to college anymore and you can't afford your own health care--go ahead. You want to throw away your vote on completely fake "values" that will never happen, and turn every election going forward into a mere referendum on how much you hate gays and how libruls are baby killers, go ahead. I don't care if your kids don't go to college or if you can't afford your drugs anymore. I tried. It didn't work. The GOP suckered you into voting against your own interests, and if you're too dumb to notice, what do I care? I live in a blue state that votes way librul and has no economic problems and tons of happy homosexuals and abortion is not an issue here at all and I even like France."

What to do with the site? Start cutting loose from the effing Swing States if Kerry loses. I don't feel like busting ass for four more years for people dumb enough to vote for Bush anyway. Turn the site into a librul elite think tank, and wash your hands of the Swing State Project, and the Swing States themselves, because they won't be swinging anymore, because if it doesn't happen in 2004, education will get worse (producing no new libruls) health care will get worse (producing lots of dead libruls) and it ain't ever gonna happen in our lifetimes.

Posted by: joseph at October 13, 2004 01:04 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

"You can gaze out the window,
Get mad and get madder,
Throw your hands in the air,
Say 'What does it matter?'
But it don't do no good
To get angry, so help me, I know."

-- John Prine, "Chain of Sorrow".

Kerry is in good shape to win Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, along with Illinois. It hardly seems appropriate to lash out at the Midwest now, before the election, for supposedly being too stupid to vote in their own best interest.

Moral values matter, let us not rage against them. I happen to be on the Democratic side because of my moral values.

Anyway, if swing states disappoint us by not coming to the Democrats, it is the Democrats' job to come to the swing states. It is a democracy; you need to get the majority to vote for you or you will be sidelined. Sometimes it is right to stand up for an unpopular principle, but you need to choose your battles wisely.

DavidNYC, I think you should keep the focus on the swing states after the election. It is a theme that has legs, in my opinion.

Posted by: Jerome at October 13, 2004 03:02 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Accurate polls are expensive and lag at least several hours or days, if not weeks, behind events.

Why not take the time to put together a web-based team of volunteers (shades of SetiAtHome) to make it possible to do instant polls of 5000+ people in each of several swing states?

E.g., 5000 people, each making ten or twenty calls in the course of an hour or two, then combining results via the web.

This kind of rapid data-collection tool would make it much easier to fine tune campaign strategies, gauging the effects of commericals, events, proposed pitches, etc. In the last weeks of a campaign it would help allocate resources to maximal advantage.

And people who've been involved for months doing this kind of telephoning will be primed to participate in GOTV efforts, etc.

Just an idea...

Posted by: James McDonald at October 13, 2004 03:52 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

There will always be "swing states". Hopefully pink/red states (e.g. CO VA NV TN) will be swing states next time around, with MI WA OR becoming solid blue. A long range effort is needed: watching the media, framing issues, supporting local governor, congress and senate races. We are behind because conservatives have had a long range vision and effort, consolidating media framing issues to attract sympathetic voters ect. We need to balance this by continueing the efforts ongoing in this site (and others like it). I suggest its too soon to make such a plan. After the election is soon enough the a plan can be made based on the red or blue direction the swing state label is moving.
To follow up this point with a report from SW MI. When I visited my home town in a county that has never elected a Democrat. I was surprized to see 6-7 Kerry signs for each Bush sign in yards and farms. A democratic head quarters had been set up in a town of 5000 by a grass roots group with no support from the state party. The headqurters was staffed 7 days a week. there are regular meetings, a good motivation and plans to target state offices. I could go on. Also I have reports from rual MO and some surprising observations in OK, that can keep for another post. While the results of such small grass roots efforts may not be apparent in the next election, they are points upon which to build a future. a swing state turns blue by making red counties pink, pink counties lt blue ect. the effort and this sites part of it should continue.

Posted by: Josep L. Roti Roti at October 13, 2004 08:38 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Joseph, I feel your pain, brother. I absolutely agree with you and understand your frustration. I think the root of the problem is how we give IOWA the honor of deciding for the rest of the country who the rest of us will be stuck with. If the first serious contest were held in say CA, NY or IL, I think we'd get better candidates from both parties. A better solution is to lessen the overwhelming and way out of proportion influence of IA and NH would be to have several states from all regions of the country voting on the same day for the first primary. The current system is ridiculous and probably the only folks that would not like to change it are those folks living in IA and NH. Who in their right mind truly believes that those two states speak for the rest of the country?

Posted by: Pepe at October 13, 2004 09:44 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Go on offense. In the event of a Kerry victory, focus the site on the ten or so states with the smallest margin of victory for George W. Bush (presumably AZ, VA, NC, LA, AR, MO etc.). Call yourself "The Next Swing States" project, and see what we can do to expand the playing field next time around.

Posted by: Trevor Williams at October 13, 2004 10:28 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I think we should immediately start preparing for 08. This means analyzing carefully the results from 04, figuring out what we did wrong, what we could have done better, what worked best. Obviously we don't know what the issues or candidates will be in 08, but we still need to work on the fundamentals. Ask everyone who was on the ground what would have helped to make the effort better...get working on it now. Things like better use of technology, better communication, organization, etc.

Posted by: Mary at October 13, 2004 10:29 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

How about working to get rid of the electoral college. Under the current system unless you live in a swing state your vote doesn't mean squat.

Posted by: The Other Rob at October 13, 2004 11:23 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Based upon pieces of a puzzle collected over the last several years, I think that the longer-term problem with the American democracy comes out of the mingling of politics with religion. It is not that the government has become infused with religion, but rather than churches have become political instruments.

Quite a while ago, there was an article in the Washington Post about some preacher-entrepreneur -- I think he was well-meaning, selling "spiritual guidance"-type books -- who had basically networked through his many pastoral acquaintances to the point where he could make a few phone-calls to start a network going and get a particular message into the sermons that millions of Americans would hear within a week or two. I think that the underlying reason for the complete intractability of much of the south to Democrats (some might say, "to reason") is that the Republican Party has effectively tapped into this network.

The result of this is that large groups of people who don't pay much attention to politics, and who probably, if left to themselves, wouldn't vote, are instead voting and even proselytizing (sp?) in a scripted manner. I don't think there is much that can be done about this without seriously jumping a lot of moral hurdles (... hurdles cleared by Karl Rove et al in a single bound), but it is a real problem that I think is beginning to direct this country down a particularly steep course of decline.

It might be useful, David, to dedicate this site, post-election, to analyzing this and similar problems, and considering what might be done about them.

Posted by: Marsden at October 13, 2004 11:53 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Joseph, CO and NV are swing states and are very close.

By the way, I wasn't around in the 50's and 60's - what the hell happened to turn the Deep South red? Was it religion? Was it LBJ fighting for integration and civil rights? 'Cause back in the old days, we were the party with our base in TX, GA, SC, KY, TN, LA, NC, FL....while the Republican party was fixed in the Rust Belt (especially IL, OH, MI), the Mountains (AZ, CO, NV...), and even the Pacific Coast (CA, OR, WA).

Well, I know what happened in my home state of CA...Latinos happened, and gradually it started becoming a blue state through the '80's, finally becoming solid for Democrats when Clinton won it in '92 (though some silly Republicans are still convinced that because Arnold is governor they can turn it around...well, with that argument, we could turn WY, OK, KS, NC, and IN around!!!).

And what went on in the Northeast? In the 1800's, it was usually Republican territory...the industrial, big, urban area, while the South was a precious little rural getaway - safe Democratic territory. Well, now most of the big cities in America are very liberal - New York, L.A., Chicago, Philly, Columbus, Atlanta, San Francisco, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Austin....

So what happened? Was it Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms becoming Republicans? Was it LBJ? Was it JFK? Was it Reagan? How the hell did the Republicans get a monopoly in the Deep South? Even Bill Clinton only won AR, KY, LA, and TN down there - he couldn't get TX, NC, SC, GA (he got it in '92 but not '96), OK, AL, or MS.

Meanwhile, IL, MI, CA, WA, DE, NJ, and VT have entirely turned around since even the '80's, and NV, FL, NH, and CO are on their way.

Also, what's going on in WV? It was one of only 11 states that voted for Dukakis, it was won by Dems in such sad elections as 1952, 1968, and 1980, Clinton won it both times, yet Bush got it in 2000 and seems to be getting it this time, though maybe by a smaller margin. Is it emerging as a red state or do you think it will remember its roots in '08?

Posted by: Nathaniel at October 13, 2004 12:28 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I take exception to Joseph's comments. One of the ways we've ended up where we are today is that liberals have treated their own ideas as self-evident, needing no justification. Instead, many (not all) treat people who disagree with them as "the great unwashed," people not worth trying to converse with.

When was the last time we had a national dialogue on abortion? (Shouting does not count as dialogue.) Or a dialogue on any other "values" issues that Joseph dismisses out of hand as having only one correct answer? If the answers to these "values" questions are so obvious, why haven't more people come to the same conclusions? When we do have dialogues (like the recent debate on gay marriage), we often find that people can and do change these fundamental opinions. I've heard any number of people discuss how, even if not ready for gay marriage, a lot of very conservative voters are ready to contemplate civil unions. If liberals like Joseph want to sneer at the ignorance of those voters who are willing to meet him halfway, I say THEY deserve what they get: four more years of Bush.

I can't stand how often I hear major commentators crack on Bush about his language usage or getting C's at Yale -- don't they realize that only a minority of the population could even get C's at Yale? Don't they realize how many people say "nucular"? Maybe it's funny to you, but if that's your reason for voting for Kerry, why should people who would get C's or worse at Yale vote for Kerry?

The reasons Bush is an awful president could be made clear to the vast majority of voters if we really took the time to engage them and to listen to THEIR concerns. The trouble is that a lot of liberals can't see beyond their own prejudices, and can't formulate a decent argument for their stances.

Please don't respond to this by carping about the "right-wing disinformation scheme" or FOX News or any of that. The truth is that there's nothing they can do with/to/in the media or at the ballot box that we can't do. The fact that we're not doing it is why we're not on top. If we wait for voters to recognize our wisdom and come to us, on our terms, then we'll never win. If we go out there and work with them, we can't lose.

Posted by: PAVoter at October 13, 2004 12:38 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Nathaniel, West Virginia appears poised to be permanently red, at least in presidential elections. It has all the conservative cultural influences of the Southern states except a fraction as many blacks. The only reason West Virginia has taken as long as it's "real South" counterparts to turn red is labor unions. Unfortunately, the steel industry is on the verge of extinction and the coal industry is a skeleton of what it once was, and in many ways benefits from the Republican Party's defiance of clean energy alternatives. Tragically, unions appear to be the only institutions compelling America's blue collar workers from voting outside their own interest. When fewer people are represented by unions, as is the case in WV, fewer people have the sense not to align themselves with the wealthy elite who are the cause of their financial malaise. One has to respect the GOP's success in stripping blue-collar Americans of their livelihood while still compelling them to vote for the Republican ticket in larger numbers than ever before. Unless there's an unlikely resurgence of unions in the coming years, it appears the working class, of which I still proudly belong to, is not smart enough to keep from voting itself into a financial genocide. West Virginia is ground zero for this epidemic.

Posted by: Mark at October 13, 2004 12:46 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

PAVoter, you make some good points. I always cringe when I hear liberals attack Bush for being stupid or a poor speaker. Whenever they do that, they make themselves appear as the snobbish elitists to swing voters who can relate to Bush's flaws. We have so many sound criticisms against Bush that it's unfortunate we have to dwell on trivial grammatical flaws. The problem is, the public's attention span for politics has been so greatly diminished because of the GOP's "any problem has a simple solution" 10-second soundbyte culture. Critiquing Bush on his more serious character and tactical flaws will bore many people, so many go for the jugular on ultimately irrelevant matters such as Bush's mispronunciations of words.

Unfortunately, this same soundbyte culture would seem to be hamstringing us from having the dialogue on abortion you believe would be helpful. There are so many staunch ideologues on both sides of this issue that it's hard to imagine where a dialogue could even begin. I have attempted to articulate a nuanced response on the abortion issue, particularly with pro-life die-hards, but they refuse to even acknowledge very fundamental flaws in their ideology and the consequences that will come from them getting what they want. I am pro-life myself, but could never align myself with leaders in the pro-life movement, whose rigid and ideological viewpoints make dialogue and nuance even dirtier words than usual.

Posted by: Mark at October 13, 2004 01:00 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

WV is a sad case...

However, NV, NH, CO, and several other states do seem to be turning around.

As a rule, what I'm discovering is that Republicans are making inroads into slow-growing states (WV, WI, IA, and MN come to mind - four states that used to be solid blue but now have entered the danger column) and Democrats in fast-growing states (NV, CO, and FL, especially, and to a much lesser extent AZ - all four former solid red states, and FL and NV especially seem to grow bluer every election).

It will be a very different country in 2008. Because the Bushies will be going out of power (if they're not out of power by the end of this year, that is), we will see how things really look, without all this election cheating. I expect NV and FL will be blue (and probably CO and NH too), and WI and IA will be red (MN will get there slower because it is the fastest growing state in the Midwest - IL will stay solid blue because of Chicago). Meanwhile, I don't know what will happen with OH - it may go the PA route and become blue-leaning, or it may go the WV route and become red-leaning.

Posted by: Nathaniel at October 13, 2004 01:36 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

After the election, focus this site on the aftermath of the vote fraud that occurred in the swing states during the election.


Posted by: snorfbat at October 13, 2004 02:18 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Nathaniel, Minnesota will be bright red in 2008 BECAUSE of its growth rate. The growth rate here is not driven mostly by minorities, as is the case in Nevada and Florida, but by affluent whites. Minnesota probably has at least 250,000 new residents since the 2000 census, and my guess is that four out of five of them are Republican. By 2008, Iowa is likely to be the only Upper Midwest state that remains blue. I'm afraid we can write Minnesota off for a generation after this election. The only reason Kerry looks poised to narrowly win it this time is the fact that Bush is the worst President in at least a century.

Posted by: Mark at October 13, 2004 02:46 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

"There will always be swing states."

Not true. They are a new phenomenon. There used to only be "bellwethers." They are simply a result of the culture wars combining with declining industry.

"I think we should immediately start preparing for 08."

There is no analysis to do. We already know the game, top to bottom: poor or undereducated whites will vote against their own interest so long as someone panders to their pigheaded fundie Christian values. Until the Dems start similarly standing up for what they believe, rather than half-pandering to the same morons, we'll not get anywhere.

People on the Demo side have to take their politics much more seriously than they do--they have to carry them into real life. Here's a case in point--did you see the assistant producer who is being sued by O'Neill for threatening to blackmail him? This is an unfortunate charge all around, and who knows the truth, but it brings up the broader question: what the hell is a Democratic woman doing working for O'Neill? How can you respect yourself, producing that guttersnipe's show, if you're a Democrat? Fundies may vote against their own interest, but they also won't work against their own interest; you won't find any right-to-lifers working for Planned Parenthood. Nor should you find Demos at Fox, but you do.

Politics aren't even real when such compromises of one's self are made on a daily basis.

Posted by: joseph at October 13, 2004 04:44 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

What about identifying possible changeovers in congressional races? Clearly, Kerry is going to need some help getting his legislation passed and I frankly don't see him getting much help from this current Congress.

Posted by: patrick at October 14, 2004 09:06 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I tend to agree with Wade. We need to start planning over the long term. To use the phrase, in order to take our Country back, we need to do more.

When Kerry wins in three weeks,he might have a Democratic Senate to work it. If he has a Democratic House to work with also, I will be thoroughly shocked!

The 2006 Elections start on November 3rd. November 3rd should be the same day we start too.
I suggest converting this site into a swing state project to turn those swing states into solid BLUE states. There should be no question to what column Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin should be in! BLUE! BLUE! BLUE!

Posted by: Rodd at October 14, 2004 12:51 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Change the focus. The present Electoral College method of electing presidents is patently unfair. A Democrat might just as well not vote in Kansas. A Republican's vote is essentially worthless in California and the electorate is so evenly divided that there is *real* risk of the House, or the Supreme Court deciding the election. My view is that going to a straight popular vote is too radical a change. I would change the Electoral College so that the electoral vote is divided along the lines of the popular vote in each state. To make a tie impossible, fractions out to say eight places would be awarded. It seems to me that this system would make cheating ineffective. It would seem to make a tie impossible, though close elections might occur. Every vote would be measured. We need to be talking about voting reform. What better place to do it than here?
Jim Guglielmino
Mission, KS

Posted by: Jim Guglielmino at October 14, 2004 12:55 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

This site now gets pretty decent traffic, and I really enjoy the community that's formed here. I'd hate to see it all go, but I certainly wouldn't mind a break.

Over 6k hits a day is more than decent.

Here's a suggestion for post-Nov. 2: Turn it into a group effort. You have probably identified a couple of people who might make good co-bloggers. Invite one on to take some of the workload off you. (Doesn't have to be permanent.)

Posted by: Mithras at October 15, 2004 12:34 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment


i think your site is beyond great, & urge you to keep it going in some form, despite all your other commitments.

may i suggest that this site can morph into an entity that helps victims of oppression, an advocacy site that favors & helps people without power who are taken advantage of by vested establishment power-weilders.

examples include:

the wrongly accused,
poor tenants vs. rich landlords
victims of gender/ race/ class discrimination
un/underinsured vs. hospitals, hmo's withholding needed medical care...& so on...

this could be a clearinghouse where people who are on the short end of fair play can turn for help individually, & perhaps can be referred to some one who can help.

something like the 'justice league of america' from the '60's superman comics.

wishing you all the best,


Posted by: billy at October 15, 2004 01:37 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

From a post in the "We're Making a Play for Colorado"...
She has completley bought into the Republican mantra of "we will fight them over there so we need not fight them over here".

I'm sick and tired of seeing these simplified statements actually work with intelligent voters. I'd love to hear this group talk about better ways to fend off these lines of reasoning while everyone prepares for the next round of elections.

And while you're at it, find a way to kill those stupid "flip-flopp" attacks. I've had enough of those, too.

Posted by: Dan Hogan at October 19, 2004 10:13 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment


Here in Texas I have seen the Radical Right take over the state. If you even mention that you are voting for Kerry, then a lot of people think you are anti-American. People here don���t understand that you can support the troops but still not be in favor of the war. Some people don���t understand that the War on Terror did not start on September 12, 2001 although our executive branch did ignore it from January 21 ��� September 10, 2001. President Clinton did an excellent job protecting Americans. He had to do it with his hands tied behind his back from the Radical Right. When Clinton bomb Afghanistan, the Radical Right accused him of doing it to cover up Monica Lewinski.

Here is the Radical Right blog about bombing Afghanistan in 1998: http://freerepublic.com/forum/a589080.htm

Posted by: DFuller at October 19, 2004 10:32 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment