By Van Jones and Billy Wimsatt
We'll give you the punch line first:
Voter guides are cheap and easy and they help win elections. The right-wing uses them better than we do. Luckily, there's a new tool that compiles local progressive voter guides: www.TheBallot.org. Everyone should go to www.TheBallot.org right now. Find one, create one, then Facebook it, Blog it, and Tweet it like mad!
Please take two minutes right now and help us reach millions of 2008 Obama voters and inspire them to vote again in the next few days.
We feel real urgency because we've seen what the other side is producing.
It looks innocent enough at first.
A plain-looking one-page sheet entitled: Nevada Voter Guide For Christians (PDF).
So far, so good.
There's Democratic Senator Harry Reid, a good practicing Christian. We learn that he is: "Anti-Free Speech" "Pro-Homosexual" "Pro-Abortion" and the kicker: "Anti-Jesus."
It's all marked there in the little chart with a "Y" by his name.
His percentage score for "Faith Friendly?"
A big fat: 0%.
Then we look over at Nevada's other Senator, Republican John Ensign, who during the summer was involved in a major sex scandal and was found to have inappropriately funneled money to his mistress.
Senator Ensign's faith-friendly rating?
You guessed it: 100%.
According to these voter guides (which exist in all 50 states), the vast majority of Democrats in Congress are "Anti-Jesus" and have a "faith friendly" rating of zero. No matter that the majority are Christians and people of faith. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Republicans are similar to John Ensign: They get a perfect score.
The goal of this campaign, created by www.PrayInJesusName.org is to fax these voter guides to 120,000 churches, to be distributed among congregations during Sunday services.
Was this propaganda paid for by the GOP?
Part of Karl Rove's multi-million dollar war chest?
Not as far as we can tell.
The voter guides state very clearly across the top: "This voter-guide is non-partisan, and neither endorses nor opposes any candidate for office. It simply reports the actual votes of Senate or Congressional incumbents, and lists their main (challengers). You should register to vote NOW to vote on November 2nd." The donation page for www.PrayInJesusName.org says: "Your donation to this ministry is tax-deductible under the IRS code."
The total budget for the entire campaign is only $36,250. They simply fax these one page voter guides to 120,000 churches and allow local congregations to distribute them.
As the website brags: "How many millions of dollars will be wasted on ads that don't mobilize Christian voters? For just 29 cents, we can equip and mobilize an entire church of voters. For just $29, we can mobilize 100 churches. For just a few thousand dollars, we can wake the entire nation. We don't need millions, just a few thousand dollars spent wisely, and SUDDENLY WE WIN."
Nevermind that this particular website and these voter guides appear to be in violation of IRS guidelines (someone should file a formal complaint). The larger point is that the right-wing has been using local voter guides for a long time. They're incredibly effective, and they cost almost no money.
"That's a really smart idea," you say. "Why aren't we doing that?"
Well... we're starting to. A new alliance of groups recently launched www.TheBallot.org to aggregate local progressive and non-partisan voter guides. More than 200 have been posted so far, from 42 states, and dozens of organizations. The best ones are personal voter guides created by local bloggers, political junkies, and informal groups that tell you in plain English (or Spanish or another language) the real deal on races and ballot measures all the way down the ballot to the School Board level.
Instead of wasting precious time getting offended by right-wing hypocrisy -- or even worse, responding with offensive anti-Christian bigotry -- please go check out www.TheBallot.org. Think of it like Wikipedia for progressive voter guides. The more people participate, the better it gets.
Is your town represented on www.TheBallot.org?
If YES, Blog it. Tweet it, Email it. Facebook it -go crazy.
If NOT, please forward this to your local political junkie and ask 'em to make a voter guide so folks in your town know how to vote. Not just for Congress, but down ballot: Judges. County Clerks. Ballot questions. The stuff nobody knows.
The hidden benefit of local voter guides is that it actually makes people understand what's on their ballot which makes them want to vote, and get their friends to vote --especially new voters: The Obama 2008 Generation.
There's no time to waste! Get out there and do God's work! Make a progressive voter guide today, or at least download one and spread the gospel.
Can we get an Amen?
Billy Wimsatt works on TheBallot.org and is author of Please Don't Bomb The Suburbs.
Van Jones is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, and American Progress Action Fund. He is focusing on "green-collar jobs" and how cities are implementing job-creating climate solutions. Van Jones is a globally recognized, award-winning pioneer in human rights and the clean energy economy. He is a co-founder of three successful nonprofit organizations: the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and Green For All. He is also the best-selling author of the definitive book on green jobs, The Green Collar Economy. Jones served as the green jobs advisor in the Obama White House in 2009 and is currently a senior policy advisor at Green For All. He also holds a joint appointment at Princeton University as a distinguished visiting fellow in both the Center for African American Studies and in the Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Van Jones is the Founder and former President of Green For All.