Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Defeat Bush: The Guide

No one is overqualified to work for John Kerry

by Robert Christgau & Ben Reiter

If George Bush is to be defeated this year, he'll be defeated on the ground. He'll be defeated because we want it more than they want it. He'll be defeated because we swallow our fantasies of a candidate who doesn't exist and recognize that John Kerry is a manifestly superior positive choice. And he'll be defeated not just because we vote for Kerry, but because we urge cynics and undecideds to vote for him too. This work will not be easy or neat--new campaign finance rules make figuring out where to help a job in itself. But no one is overqualified for it. Don't think blue-staters like us can't make the difference in swing states. And don't forget that even in New York, pluralities count--win or lose, every vote for Kerry makes us feel better and Bush look worse. There are still two or three weeks to register voters, and there's plenty of follow-up to do in October. Examine the options outlined below and decide how you might best donate your time. Then tell your friends to do the same.

The Big Umbrellas

McCain-Feingold doesn't permit the Dems to coordinate the many 527 PACs stoking the anti-Bush fires. The groups below provide invaluable organization and overview.

  • The most thorough and coherent website dedicated to anti-Bush progressivism. Click "Act More" for an extensive listing of volunteer options. Click "NYC Swingers" (also at if battleground states are your obsession.

  • ACT (Americans Coming Together): "The largest voter contact program in history." Enter your zip code at for events near you, or sign up for anything from letter writing to out-of-state Election Day work at

  • Get on their e-mail list and pick an action--pick several actions--from the dozens Eli Pariser & Co. will throw your way before Election Day.

  • Women's Voices. Women Vote: Phone banking to register women voters nationwide. Sign up online (

  • Visit this website to subscribe to the Activate e-newsletter, a detailed weekly summary of anti-Bush cultural events nationwide.

  • The culturally oriented site that birthed Activate. Click "Participate" for links to youth-targeted anti-Bush and progressive groups.

Be Here Now

You can get involved this week. Pick a project, any project.

  • Election Protection Training ( Saturday, September 18, from 2 to 5, Columbia University Law School, 435 West 116th Street, will host a multi-sponsored training session for volunteers who can travel to swing states on Election Day to help protect voting rights. Anyone can enroll, but lawyers, law students, clergy, and Spanish speakers are at a premium. You must RSVP at the website.

  • Get on the bus: Saturday, September 18, at 7:45 a.m., buses will take volunteers to talk to voters in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. For info and seat reservations call Michelle Shapiro, 212-523-0180, ext. 24, or e-mail

  • Democracy in the Park ( Every Sunday afternoon from 3 until 7 volunteers use their free cell-phone minutes to canvass swing-state voters for ACT. Active locations include Central Park at 93rd Street and Central Park West, Union Square Park at the 14th Street statue, Tompkins Square Park on the lawn, and McEachron Park (Waterfront Park) in Hastings-on-Hudson next to the NYC-bound Metro North platform. The group is seeking organizers to run other sites.

Purple States

Pennsylvania's next door. New Hampshire's nearby. Maine and Ohio are within reach. And in this day and age, you can talk to anyone who doesn't hide behind caller ID.

  • Citizen Action of New York: Two-decade-old progressive group has numerous swing-state actions scheduled, including a Missouri phone bank, Saturday trips to Pennsylvania in October, an October weekend in Philadelphia, phone projects in other states, and a massive final Pennsylvania push from October 30 to Election Day. Sign up at their website ( Coordinator: Jesse Dixon, 212-523-0180, ext. 43.

  • Downtown for Democracy has scheduled an Ohio weekend ($20 for transportation and housing) from September 23 to 26. Contact

  • Calling Ohio!: Phone banks Monday through Thursday, 6 to 9 p.m., until Election Day at SEIU HQ, 330 West 42nd Street, seventh floor. Contact

  • Seniors for America: The former Seniors for Dean are targeting Arizona retirees with a letter-writing campaign. A hand-written return address will open envelopes, they advise. E-mail Tracey at to host a party.

  • Driving Votes: This grassroots organization ( helps road dogs plan car trips to register voters. Get on this one--most states end registration Monday, October 4, or a few days earlier. Contact Elana, 646-245-2935.

The Democratic Party We Rode in On

Working against Bush is only half the job. Here's where you get to work for Kerry. The campaign's Manhattan office is at 1560 Broadway, ninth floor, entrance east of Times Square on 46th Street, 212-764-7104. Walt Townes ( is Kerry's New York volunteer coordinator.

  • Voter Protection: Henry Berger ( signs up and trains attorneys for swing-state residencies from October 30 to November 2. RSVP via e-mail.

  • Women for Kerry: Julie Ehrlich ( trains "truth squads" Tuesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 in the atrium of the IBM building, Madison Avenue and 56th Street. Asha Cherian ( heads a women's letters-to-the-editor operation.

  • Street Teams: Tracy Sabbah ( and Seth Williams ( target tourist-heavy Manhattan spots for leafleting; Townes, e-mail above, does the same for street fairs. Training Mondays and Thursday at 7.

  • Swing States: Lisa Malone,

  • Latino Outreach: Tracy Sabbah,

  • The All-Important Grunt Work: Last but not least, bring your laptop to contribute data entry every Thursday at 6 under Bruce Owens ( Meet at the Kerry office, 1560 Broadway, room 900, entrance east of Times Square on 46th Street.

Union Made

Most unions were still regrouping the week after Labor Day, but consult your shop steward--by press time, that may have changed. If it hasn't, keep asking--Kerry needs unions and vice versa.

  • 1199 Heroes: Any union member can sign up for this Service Employees International program, which trains registration workers. Time's running out, so do it quick: 212-582-1890.

  • UNITE HERE: The Hotel Employees & Restaurant Employees union is calling HERE members in battleground states starting October 4, 5 to 8:30, at 275 Seventh Avenue, 15th floor. Must sign up with political department, 212-265-7000.

Students for a Democratic Society

Bush did surprisingly well among under-30s in 2000, but he's lost that edge. Make him pay for that loan you can't afford.

  • Democracy on the Quad: The campus version of Democracy in the Park, currently active at the Columbia University medical campus and Concordia College, and looking to expand citywide. Contact

  • League of Pissed Off Voters: Coordinating this lively, iconoclastic, music-aware national group in New York is Naina Khanna (, 212-283-8879).

  • My Vote Will Count: Campus registration drives, concentrating on getting students from swing states to register at home and vote absentee ( Currently at NYU and Columbia and anticipating rapid expansion.

Fun and Games

The politics of hedonism will never be defeated--assuming we work for it.

  • Music for America: A "political nonprofit" that aims to involve a million new progressives in the 2004 election. Click "Take Action" on its well-designed site ( for tools to help register voters.

  • Billionaires for Bush: You've read about them. But did you know that if you have a flair for character roles, you can be one? Find out how to dog every step Bush and Cheney take at weekly Tuesday meetings, 7 p.m., 1 Bond Street, Apartment 5C. Ask for Marco, a/k/a Monet Oliver d'Place, 201-709-7550.

  • Run Against Bush: Rouse the electorate by jogging with a group wearing $25 T-shirts that say, "Run Against Bush"; proceeds go to swing-state campaigns. Saturdays 11 a.m., in Central Park near Tavern on the Green, 67th Street and Central Park West, or downtown at 14th Street and the West Side Highway. Also Sundays, 10 a.m., at Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn.

  • Greene Dragon: Street theater in American Revolutionary drag. Planning meetings 8 p.m. Wednesdays at Kabin, 92 Second Avenue. E-mail updates:

Village Voice, Sept. 21, 2004