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Swing Fantasies | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

Swing Fantasies

I sometimes fantasize about being reincarnated as a swing voter in Ohio. After all, the entire convention was designed to seduce about 11 voters in that great state. In Boston, pundits, DNC types and others all seemed to gauge the effectiveness of the day's events through the prism of what someone in a battleground state might have thought. At one of the endless chat 'n'chews on Wednesday, a key member of the DNC Finance Committee told me that after Barack Obama's "a star is born" speech, she had called all her relatives who live in battleground states to get their take on how it had played. She was relieved (and ecstatic) to report that they had loved it.

She didn't need to call relatives after Kerry's speech. Thursday night, MSNBC turned to a small group of Ohio swing voters for their reactions. GOP pollster Frank Luntz--who dons a bipartisan hat as a MSNBC consultant--had equipped these swingers with meters to gauge their views on the speeches' key riffs. Seems that Michael Moore and the swing voters of Ohio may be linked at the hip when it comes to their view of the Saudi royal family. Luntz sheepishly reported that Kerry's attack on Bush's energy policy ("I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation--not the Saudi royal family.") was the group's fave passage of the night. It was "just off the charts" on the vote-o-meter.

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Buchanan Voting for Kerry?

Pat Buchanan is by no means your on-the-reservation Republican, but it was striking to hear him say Thursday night on MSNBC's After Hours: "If I did not know this man or his past record, and heard only this speech tonight, I could easily vote for him." Buchanan went on to alert viewers that veterans were being organized to challenge Kerry's version of his war record. "Look forward to the Guns of August."

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The Thrust of Kerry's Speech

I liked much of Kerry's speech--what he said about energy independence and healthcare as a right and using money now going to prisons to fund Head Start and Early Start. But I was turned off by his opening line: "My name is John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty." As he saluted, I thought of how our politics and policies are already too militarized. I can hear people telling me--come on, lighten up; after all. it's just a convention speech. But in the quest to take back defense and national security, could Dems lose their way? Is militarism the centerpiece of the Democrats' vision for the future? As Tikkun editor Michael Lerner wrote in an astute Op-Ed in today's Wall Street Journal: "If militarism and toughness are all that either party can offer the country as a vision for the future....many voters may simply not be inspired to vote at all."

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