We are so grateful to all of you who have grappled with phone dialing software, suffered postcard-writing cramps, braved COVID to deliver supplies, and challenged yourselves to apply deep canvassing techniques. You are the heart of Swing Blue Alliance.
2021 in the Rearview Mirror
Swing Left Greater Boston volunteers and leaders started 2021 thrilled, united, proud, hopeful, and generally exhausted. However, we were not done. We spent the first days of the year duking it out in Georgia before taking on the next round of US political challenges.
In the days following the Senate wins in Georgia and the insurrection, we took a break to consider the future of Swing Left Greater Boston. Looking at 2020 in the rearview mirror helped us formulate how we wanted to continue and how we needed to change in 2021.
Honing Our Identity
In 2021, Swing Left Greater Boston reaffirmed our mission to protect our democracy, strengthen Democratic initiatives at the grassroots level, and elect Democrats up and down the ballot. We reasserted our goal of connecting organizers and volunteers to swing state voters, filling in with support where it is most needed. We also re-emphasized our dedication to measuring the effectiveness of our actions and applying what we learn to future efforts.
At the same time, we wanted to highlight the message that we are dedicated to swinging the country blue, not alone but in alliance with other groups that share our values. To this end, we recognized the formal and informal associations we form with local and national groups across the country. In particular, our partnerships with the national Swing Left and Indivisible organizations, as well as the Indivisible Mass Coalition, empower us to extend our reach and effectiveness.
We commemorated these goals with a new identity: Swing Blue Alliance.
Countering the Rise of Voter Suppression
On January 6, we thought the insurrection was as bad as it could get. However, new state-by-state gerrymandering and restrictive voting legislation are making it clear how scared Republicans are of US citizens. The House of Representatives responded by passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, the For the People Act, and then the Freedom to Vote Act.
As we all know, some members of the US Senate are not willing to support the will of the people. Although 67% of Americans condemn the Republicans’ voter suppression efforts, 52 Senators are unwilling to jeopardize their personal power to safeguard everyone’s right to decide the course of the country.
Swing Blue Alliance Enters the Fray
Senators in purple and purplish-blue states needed to hear that their own constituents favored the legislation. Working with a number of nationwide and local organizations, Swing Blue Alliance (SBA) and our partners took the initiative to ask voters to convey this message to their to their Senators.
SBA worked with Common Cause to organize phone banks. Volunteers called Democratic voters in key states, generating 2,300 calls to voters in Alaska, Arizona, California, Delaware, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The SBA postcard program distributed 373,200 postcards to organizers and group leaders across the country. These cards were then mailed by volunteers to voters in AZ, WV, DE, ME, NV, NH, NY and VA, where they generated nearly 5,000 phone calls to Senators on the fence about the filibuster.
In addition, SBA and its partners helped organize and recruit people to participate in several rallies. We represented our values at the Freedom to Vote rally on Boston Common on June 19, the March on Washington for Voting Rights on August 28, the DC/VA weekend of action on October 23, and the November 17 Voting Rights Now protest in front of the White House at which several of us were arrested.
Locally, we worked with Indivisible Mass Coalition and grassroots leaders across Massachusetts to organize 18 high-visibility events. Over 500 activists signed a giant letter to President Biden, urging him to take action now to pass the voting rights legislation. The giant letter went to the White House at the November 17 protest.
Too-Close Wins and Losses
Throughout 2021, Swing Blue Alliance volunteers participated in special elections in multiple states. Each election was another example of how few votes it takes to make a huge difference in legislative control.
Between Oct 26 and January 5, SBA volunteers spent 27.2K hours, wrote 461K postcards, and made 124.3K phone calls to support Democratic candidates in the Georgia US Senate race. Thanks in part to these efforts, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won, giving the Dems control of the US Senate. The margins were 1.2% and 2% respectively. Almost too close for comfort!
In May 2021, we supported Democrat Marty Flynn in a special election to fill a vacant state senate seat. Forty SBA volunteers made calls and knocked on doors. Flynn won the seat with 51.2% of the vote. That number is less assuring when you realize that he won with 63% of the vote in his previous run.
The November elections in Virginia were the mirror image of what happened in Pennsylvania. In early October, SBA volunteers recruited three phone bank hosts and 41 callers for Sister District MA/RI phone banks to support Virginia candidates. In addition, eight volunteers completed 25 canvassing shifts for Josh Cole, Alex Askew, and Nancy Guy in Fredericksburg and Virginia Beach.
The hope was to maintain Democratic hold of the governorship and the House of Delegates by supporting Terry McAuliffe, Josh Cole, Alex Askew, and Martha Mugler. McAuliffe’s loss by 1.9% was a disappointment, but not terrible.
The House of Delegates elections were much closer. Cole lost by only 647 votes out of 31,988 cast (0.2%). The margins for Askew and Mugler were tiny: 127 votes out of 28,413 cast (less than .045%), and 94 votes out of 27,388 cast (less than 0.035%), respectively. Just think! A change of 868 votes would have kept the VA legislature in Democratic control!
New Hampshire: The good news
In 2021, Dems swept New Hampshire in city elections, winning mayoral, school board, and city council races throughout the state: 278 Democrat wins vs. 98 Republican wins. This sweep contributed to Kelly Ayotte’s decision not to contest US House of Representative Chris Pappas and to put an end to Governing Chris Sununu’s attempt to beat US Senator Maggie Hassan.
In October and November, SBA volunteers took on 94 shifts of canvassing, phone banking, and voter registration activities in support of Mayor Joyce Craig’s third term as mayor in Manchester. On November 2, Craig won by 1,223 votes, out of just under 20,000.
In November and December, more than 40 SBA volunteers drove up to Derry to knock on doors while 25 made calls, all to support Mary Eisner’s run for NH House. Derry is one of the “reddest” towns in New Hampshire, so it was no surprise that Mary Eisner lost the special election. Yet the opportunity was there. Five thousand Democratic voters who voted for Eisner in November 2020 didn’t vote in this special election.
2022 in the Headlights
Now, we are looking at 2021 in the rearview mirror.
The elections of 2021 set our direction for 2022. A 1 or 2% margin decides whether Congress is Democrat or Republican. Control of a state house can swing on only 94 or 127 or 868 votes. Imagine what would have happened if those 5,000 NH Democrats had cast their ballots?
Swing Blue Alliance is dedicated to measuring the effectiveness of our actions and applying what we learn to future efforts. We have proven that getting out the vote does more than elect a particular candidate. Voting is central to building a Democratic community that stands up for the Democratic ideals of healthcare, voter protection, and human rights. A Democratic community that promotes voting by other Democrats. A Democratic community that comes out for elections up and down the ballot.
We have proven again and again that multiple-touch campaigns — through postcards, calls, and canvassing — makes the biggest difference in getting voters to the polls. We have seen with our own eyes the power of one-on-one conversations to energize voters.
Applying these Strategies
Volunteers Taking Back Democracy
In September 2021, SBA launched the Volunteers Taking Back Democracy (TBD) Calling Corps. We will continue this initiative into 2022, helping on-the ground organizations in swing states recruit volunteers.
The Calling Corps enables “blue state” activists to help build a base of volunteers in swing states. In turn, those activists can apply their understanding of the area and its voters to help build a Democratic presence in their own communities.
Weekly calling sessions include training and skill building, closing with a community discussion. Participants learn motivational interviewing techniques to improve listening skills and increase meaningful conversation. Callers apply this approach to build relationships as they speak to potential “purple state” volunteers.
In just over ten weeks, the Volunteer TBD Calling Corps members have made over 1,200 calls, successfully engaging 134 volunteers to take action. We’ve been able to connect with 28% of the people we called. Of those we reach, 41% take advantage of the opportunities we offer.
Connecting with Others
All of us together have the power to build a Democratic community that stands up for Democratic ideals. If you’d like to discuss meaningful ways to take action or be connected to others in your community, schedule a call with Susan.