May 24, 2024

Here’s how blue state voters can help the Democrats’ swing-state efforts

In this Boston Globe piece on how blue-state Democrats can make the most impact on the 2024 elections, columnist Scot Lehigh makes the case for investing in local organizing through Movement Voter Project.
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In this Boston Globe piece on how blue-state Democrats can make the most impact on the 2024 elections, columnist Scot Lehigh makes the case for investing in local organizing through Movement Voter Project.

Read the full piece: Online (subscription required) • PDF

 


Key excerpts

In mid-April I asked readers to recommend groups that helped channel blue-state energy and activism into the swing states. One suggestion outpaced all the others: the Movement Voter Project, which funds on-the-ground voter-outreach and electioneering efforts in swing states.

“Our approach is to raise money from folks from all over the country, especially folks who are in very safe blue states,” Zo Tobi, director of donor organizing, said. “We take that money and give it out to the best, most effective locally based grass-roots groups on the ground that are doing year-round organizing in swing states and battleground districts.”

Since 2019, MVP has raised more than $94 million from some 50,000 donors and directed those dollars to some 600 groups as a part of its efforts. So if you want to water the swing-state grass roots from afar, MVP comes highly recommended.

 


Full piece

It’s a question I frequently get from readers of my column: Given that the federal election results are all but preordained in their blue states, what can they do to help President Biden and Democrats in the swing states in the 2024 election?

Even if all Donald Trump had done was engage in dark, demagogic, authoritarian rhetoric, that would be a pressing concern for anyone who values American democracy. But he has done far more. Everyone who is awake and aware should by now realize that Trump schemed with a cabal of advisers to overturn the legitimate 2020 presidential voting results in order to keep himself in power. By doing so, Trump demonstrated that democracy is not safe in his hands or on his watch. Perhaps former vice president Mike Pence said it best: Trump tried to put himself above the US Constitution and “anyone that puts themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States.”

In mid-April I asked readers to recommend groups that helped channel blue-state energy and activism into the swing states. One suggestion outpaced all the others: the Movement Voter Project, which funds on-the-ground voter-outreach and electioneering efforts in swing states.

“Our approach is to raise money from folks from all over the country, especially folks who are in very safe blue states,” Zo Tobi, director of donor organizing, said. “We take that money and give it out to the best, most effective locally based grass-roots groups on the ground that are doing year-round organizing in swing states and battleground districts.”

MVP’s current focus is the top seven presidential swing states, plus Ohio and Montana because of the pivotal Senate races featuring Democratic incumbents battling for re-election, and then several dozen US House districts that may well determine control of that body. The organization has advisers in the key states who know the landscape and recommend the best groups to invest in.

A particular mission is contacting irregular voters who don’t have much faith in American institutions and are less likely to respond to TV ads or traditional voter prompts. MVP’s effort also reaches out to voters who are inclined toward Democratic concerns but put off by Biden, making the case to them that whatever they think of the president, advancing issues they care about requires having a Democrat in the White House.

“The best chance we have [to win the swing states] is keeping engaged with voters who are ticked off about the Biden administration’s current approach,” Tobisaid, adding that leading with the issues important to voters sometimes works better than boosting the ticket-topping candidate.

Since 2019, MVP has raised more than $94 million from some 50,000 donors and directed those dollars to some 600 groups as a part of its efforts. So if you want to water the swing-state grass roots from afar, MVP comes highly recommended.

Contrariwise, if you seek a soles-on-the-swing-state-soil experience, among its other outreach activities, the Massachusetts-based Swing Blue Alliance helps arrange for scores of volunteers to go to battleground states to register, persuade, and turn out Democratic voters. The states are chosen based on the closeness and criticality of the race, the proximity to New England, and Swing Blue’s partnerships in that state, co-lead Susan Labandibar said.

A number of groups focus on urging infrequent voters to get to the polls; I particularly like the innovative approach of the Environmental Voter Project, which I’ve written about previously, as I have Vote Forward. But here’s one I didn’t know about: Grandmothers for a Brighter Future. Under its model, grandmothers write to other swing-state women who are over 65 and are Democrats or independents, urging them to vote for Democratic candidates. Their focus is the presidency and the US Senate.

“This is a terrific activity for those who no longer feel able to knock on doors and don’t want to send emails or texts,” said Alice Pierce, 90, of Lexington, the group’s communicator in chief.

Grandmothers for a Brighter Future currently has epistolary efforts in 46 states. The Massachusetts group just finished working on the Arizona US Senate race, writing to urge support for Ruben Gallego, a Democrat, who is likely to face-off against election-denier Kari Lake. They are now writing their Ohio generational peers, urging them to turn out for US Senator Sherrod Brown, the Democratic incumbent.

Participants get a printable message template they then take to a copy shop to have printed on bright yellow postcard-quality paper. They add names and addresses from a provided list, append a personal note of their own devising, and then, in mid-September, send those cards out to their swing-state targets. Although one can write the cards alone, Constance Kantar, 86, of Newton, said there are often postcard-writing get-togethers.

Then there’s the other end of the generational spectrum — and a recommendation that comes from this columnist. In 2018, 2020, and 2022, younger voters helped Democrats keep Trump’s GOP at bay. But for reasons that are a mystery (joking!), they seem unenthused by the choice between 81-year-old Joe Biden and soon-to-be-78 Donald Trump. Given that as much as 45 percent of the potential 2024 electorate will be 40 or under, those voters are critical.

John Rosenthal, the dynamo who has made Stop Handgun Violence such a force in gun-safety policy, has mounted an impressive effort to reach out to them. “If they come out again, we can stop or at least seriously weaken Trump and the fascist MAGA movement — and nothing is more important than this, now,” he said.

Generationally, they are skeptical of politicians and don’t feel strong party loyalties “but they care about issues,” Rosenthal said. And that’s where he’s trying to reach them. To that end, Rosenthal recruited branding guru Bruce Mau to come up with a self-explanatory slogan aimed at younger voters.

The result was the ad campaign “America Is Calling. Vote.” It focuses on short — short as in 8-, 15-, and 30-second — digital ads designed to reach younger voters on their phones (and streaming devices), outlining the stakes of this election on matters from climate change to gun safety to abortion rights to gay marriage to democracy itself.

In 2022, when “America Is Calling. Vote” ads ran in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Georgia, and North Carolina, those ads were seen 14 million times — and 95 percent of the time were watched to completion, Rosenthal reports.

In 2024, “America Is Calling. Vote” hopes to expand it efforts to at least six swing states, at a minimum budget of $2.5 million, which is what it will cost for the ads to be seen enough to be effective. Rosenthal and his group have raised $1 million toward that goal, and he himself plans a substantial further donation.

So there are some beyond-your-blue-state-borders ways to get involved in the 2024 election. More suggestions? Please send them along, as I may write on this subject again. Meanwhile, I hope this column provides some timely help to those looking for productive avenues for their efforts.

 


 

Scot Lehigh is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him @GlobeScotLehigh.

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