I am a 26 year old freelance computer programmer turned political activist.
How did SwingtheState.org come about?
3 1/2 years ago during the whole Florida 2000 thing I got so pissed at Bush and the right wing machine that created him (as personified by the New York Post) that I swore to myself right then and there, that, come next time, I would make it my goal, my personal mission, to cost those rich, arrogant, right wing fuckwads as much money and time as I could.
In keeping with this promise, about a year ago, I quit my soulless, well paying job (I programmed computers for a monolithic, investment bank), and created an organization dedicated to irritating those bastards in time for the race of 2004.
Some friends had the idea, last October. They thought of imitating the Freedom Riders, integration activists in the 60s who rode around on buses, supporting the cause all over the country.
They didn't have the time to work on it, and I was frothing at the mouth looking for a way to get active. I experimented with some ideas and ended up organizing an anti-Bush Spring Break effort for college students called Swing State Spring Break. After a bunch more trial and error, many hundreds of emails, phone calls, and a few months, Swing the State was born.
You hear all the time that every vote counts, but New York State is pretty much of a given to go Democratic in the upcoming election. So, does every vote really count? If you really wanted to make a difference, wouldn't it make more sense to do something like move to Florida or Ohio?
One note on this whole New York doesn't matter anymore idea that's been floating around -- New York is a given to go Democratic because throughout the years, a lot of folks got politically active and have stayed active. Unions, women, artists, young people, people of color, working people, advocacy groups. New York is a hotbed of activism right now, and that's why it's a given to go Democratic. There's nothing about NYC that makes it intrinsically blue.
As for the necessity of moving to Florida and Ohio to make a difference, that's complete bullshit. One of the biggest reasons people don't get into politics, is that people find it so intimidating.
It doesn't deserve to be intimidating. Child-rearing deserves to be intimidating. Quantum Mechanics deserves to be intimidating. On almost all levels, politics is so simple it's scary. That's the whole idea behind Swing the State. To make doing your part to beat Bush so easy, so rewarding and so concrete, that people not only want to do it, but they want others to do it too.
Now, after that big speech about how you don't have to relocate to make a difference, I guess it's only fair that I admit that I did move to Florida.
I've lived here since late September, and have been working with ACT, a great group doing work to get out the vote, in Florida.
Wow, so you moved to Florida. Planning to come back any time soon?
We'll see how the post election fall out goes.
Short of moving to Florida as you've done, what are some ways that New Yorkers can help influence the outcome the election in the next week?
One thing to keep in mind is that this election, however important it is, is just the battle. It is not the war. The key is to stay politically active, even just a little.
And that's really simple. Just turn off your TV, and read/do something. Go to Democracynow.org and listen to the news. Go to a blog (i.e. dailykos.com and mydd.com are great) and read about politics. Buy, check out a book (Fast Food Nation, What's wrong with Kansas) and read about what's going on.
You will find things that are awesome and things that are fucked up.
And here's the key. Once you find something that is awesome or fucked up, do something about it. A lot of people stop at the point of classifying something as fucked up. Just do something. If the thing is awesome, do something to support it. If the thing is fucked up, do something to get rid of it. Just a small thing.
Set up some time with your friends, and talk about it. Give 20 bucks to a candidate. Make a sign and go stand in Grand Central until someone talks to you, for christ's sake. Anything. You'll feel so much better. Oh dear God, I swear you will.
Does it seem to you that New York voters are at all out of touch with the mainstream of America?
Kind of. But in a really, really good way.
You see, mainstream America doesn't really hang out with that other, non-mainstream-but-actually-makes-up-the-majority-of-Americans America very much.
Take the subway for instance, just the fact that NYers that look and think and act so differently are forced to interact with each other day in and day out; Well, spend enough time down there, and you can't help but wind up with some much needed perspective.
Now that you've found this little political niche, is this something you see yourself continuing with?
We'll see how the post election fall out goes.
Anything other than defeating Bush that gets you up in the morning?
The thought of what it will be like to not have to think about defeating Bush.
Where will you be on Election Day?
50% on my cell phone, directing many dozens of people to Democratic neighborhoods, to drag likely Democrats to the polls.
What source(s) do you turn to for news?
Name one person you trust in politics.
Interview by Raphie Frank