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The Nation

Looking Forward, Looking Back

At the end of each year, I write to our 30,000 Nation Associates--readers who make contributions to the magazine that provide nearly 20 percent of all the magazine's revenue--reporting on the past year and what the magazine has accomplished as well as looking forward to the coming year.  I wanted to share my letter to Associates this year. And if you are so moved to contribute please click here.

Dear Nation Associate: 

I don't know about you, but I find these are times that try progressives' souls. On issue after issue--ending the war, the imperial presidency, health care, jobs, environment, unions--the public is overwhelmingly progressive and wants action. Yet, we remain bogged down in occupied Iraq; economic pain and dislocation are affecting millions; torture is condoned by the Bush Administration and its enablers; we export democracy abroad instead of rebuilding it at home; and too many Democrats (though not all) have forgotten their role in fighting for the voiceless, and for peace and justice.

At The Nation--where hope dies last--we believe it is in such times that our work, joined by allies like you, is more vital than ever.  And in 2007, thanks to your continuing support, The Nation had an important impact on our political debate and policies.

If you were one of the many supporters and friends who joined in on our conference call in December, you heard Nation correspondent and bestselling writer Jeremy Scahill talk about his ground-breaking reporting on the mercenary forces of Blackwater USA (and privatization's radical assault on our democracy).  Jeremy's reporting first appeared in a series of investigative articles in The Nation two years before the mainstream paid any attention to the issue, showing once again the essential role and expanding reach of The Nation and the importance of a strong and independent media.

When the story broke in September 2007, with Blackwater's killing of twenty Iraqi civilians, major US and international news outlets had only one place to turn for information and insight: Jeremy Scahill and The Nation. In the course of one week, Jeremy appeared on the CBS Evening News, ABC World News, CNN, NPR's Talk of the Nation, the Lehrer NewsHour, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, the BBC and dozens of other outlets. Jeremy also testified before several Congressional committees, including Henry Waxman's Government Oversight Committee and was invited to brief key legislators and their staff. His reporting in The Nation shaped  ground-breaking legislation, introduced this November by Representative Jan Schakowsky, which abolishes the use of private security contractors in Iraq.

On the conference call, Jeremy provided expert insight on the metastasizing scandal and what military privatization means for our democracy. Many participants--phoning in from places ranging from the West Coast and the Deep South to London and Canada--asked what they could do to help spread the word. Some inspiring suggestions were given, many thought-provoking questions raised. This was our second conference call with Nation supporters--and we've already begun planning for future calls so that you too can have a chance to engage with some of our extraordinary writers and personalities. I look forward to having more of you join us on these calls. I always feel a deep and meaningful sense of community amongst all the listeners and participants. And it is precisely these conversations that independent media are meant to inspire--especially now, when mainstream corporate influence is threatening to silence the public's diverse and dissenting voice.  Your passion and ideas are doubly appreciated and we welcome your suggestions for topics of discussion on future calls.

Looking ahead, it is even more vital that we keep The Nation's independent voice alive and well. That is why we've waged a tenacious, grassroots and transpartisan fight to roll back the grossly unfair postage rate hike which has saddled The Nation with a half a million dollar annual increase in postal costs. Our President Teresa Stack has done an extraordinary job in organizing a coalition of small independent publications, from left to right, in order to fight back. Her organizing work, and the groundswell of support from 100,000 citizens, helped us get a hearing in Congress. At the end of October, our Publisher Emeritus Victor Navasky testified before a Congressional subcommittee. His testimony was inspiring: "The impact of the new postal rate increase on the flow of ideas and opinions in America is likely to be significant. Precisely those magazines that devote the most space to public affairs -- to covering in-depth events like the hearings today -- are being put in serious jeopardy." The hearing put the political momentum clearly on our side, and we are working hard with our new friends in Congress to craft a legislative solution that would roll back this radical upending of postal policy -- all to help ensure a vibrant and diverse press for years to come.

Looking ahead to 2008, we need to continue to support "unembedded" reporters (those who aren't beholden to any corporate media power) like Jeremy Scahill, Naomi Klein, Chris Hedges, John Nichols and Gary Younge, so that their debate and idea-shaping work reaches ever wider audiences. One of the newest "unembedded" writers joining us is Christopher Hayes, who became The Nation's  Washington Editor in November. (After 20 years, we wish our longtime DC Editor David Corn all the best as he sets off on new journalistic adventures.) Hayes has been reporting and writing on politics, economics, and labor for a wide variety of independent publications. I am excited about the fresh and distinctive perspective, intellectual curiosity, range and dynamism that he will bring to the Nation's coverage of the capital at this critical time in our nation's history. 

With the support made possible by Nation Associates, we've also undertaken some new initiatives--designed to deliver our message to a larger audience and strengthen and deepen our roots in the progressive community.

•We unveiled an exciting redesign aimed at making the magazine more spirited, accessible and readable to both new and longtime readers. Our bolder logo harkens back to mid-twentieth century incarnations of The Nation.

•We're redesigning The Nation website--which now averages over 800,000 unique visitors per month--and adding new blogs, video features and more interactivity so as to connect more effectively with the Nation community.  One feature I hope Associates will contribute to is "Around the Nation," our national online calendar which aspires to be the progressive calendar for events nationwide. Since the calendar is user-generated, we need your input!

•As an investment in building the next generation of dissenting, troublemaking, smart reporters, writers and readers, we're continuing our successful Student Journalism Conferences. This past June, 150 student journalists from across the country came together in Washington DC for a day of exciting panels, discussions with editors, reporters, and cultural critics from The Nation and other independent publications. Our inaugural West Coast Student Conference is scheduled for January 26th and we've already gathered an exciting  team of diverse, provocative writers, bloggers, editors and investigative reporters to engage and educate the muckrakers of our future. 

•We set off to Alaska in July, for the tenth annual Nation Cruise. With 400 Nation cruisers on board, from all parts of the country (and a few from points around the world!), the panels and ad hoc sessions were rollicking, enlightening and engaging. But, for me, the highlight of the cruise was a memorable antiwar rally in Juneau, Alaska, organized by the local chapter of Veterans Against the War, to welcome The Nation to Alaska. The rally was held at Marine Park -- a spectacular setting in which rainforest-covered mountains sloped down to meet the ocean. Hundreds of The Nation's Alaskan supporters gathered in the mist and rain to greet and listen to speakers and passengers, including Salt Lake City's Mayor Rocky Anderson, and consumer crusader and former Presidential candidate Ralph Nader. At the end of the rally, Vets Against the War's Phil Smith, in the spirit of generosity that defined our day in Juneau, gave me a contribution towards our postal-rate campaign. I will never forget that inspirational day in Juneau in which leaders and citizens from across the nation joined together to register their protest against the Bush Administration and its disastrous war, and found kinship through shared ideals and values that stretched all the way from New York City to Juneau, Alaska.

I believe that bold ideas in these next months and years will not come from the status quo press or inside-the-beltway politicians! That's why we count on you--members of a growing Nation community committed to challenging our downsized politics of excluded alternatives. Like millions in this country, you understand that we can't leave our future to wobbly politicians in Washington. You know that our country's finest moments have come when political parties and leaders are pushed into action from outside by independent magazines and reporters. And it is the investments you've made--and we hope you'll continue to make--in independent and honest journalism that have acted to keep our democracy resilient.

You have helped us grow in the past, and we are grateful. But it is support from partners like you which will be crucial in these next few years. We will never stop raising the tough and independent questions required of a free press in a democracy. Exposing and proposing. And now at this moment of unprecedented urgency as we fight the postal rate increase, we hope you might make an extra effort this year to help out with a year end donation to The Nation.

Your support has enabled us not only to survive for three centuries, but grow as a magazine that has made a unique and increasingly forceful contribution to our political, intellectual and cultural life. At whatever level your circumstances permit, you can help us make a difference. 

Yours sincerely and with thanks, 

Katrina vanden HeuvelPublisher and Editor

Behind the Edwards Surge: Right Message at the Right Time

Much was made of Illinois Senator Barack Obama's superb speech to a huge crowd of Iowa Democrats at the mid-November Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner in Des Moines. Without a doubt, it helped to propel Obama ahead of New York Senator Hillary Clinton in polls conducted in the weeks after the event.

But Obama's speech in November may not turn out to be the definitional statement of the fight for Iowa.

What could turn out to be the most critical comment of the campaign came from John Edwards in the last debate between the Democratic contenders -- and the former senator from North Carolina may well claim the caucus-night victory that is the reward for delivering the right message at the right time.

It wasn't a great rhetorical flourish. It wasn't even a new statement. Rather, it was a particularly pointed and effective restatement of the core anti-corporate message of his campaign.

But it came precisely when Iowa Democrats were getting serious about the caucuses. And it gave Edwards the boost he needed to get back in the competition -- and, he is, very much in the competition now.

No serious observer of the December 13 debate in Des Moines doubted that the standout performance, and the standout message, was that of Edwards.

Indeed, undecided voters assembled in focus groups that watched the debate for the major television networks rated Edwards off the charts. That's going to help the 2004 Democratic nominee for vice president as the Iowa caucuses approach. Despite the intense focus on the campaigns of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, most polls suggest that Edwards is very much in the running in Iowa. And rightly so.

To a far greater extent than Obama or Clinton, Edwards has struck at the heart of issues that should matter most in the race to replace not just George W. Bush, but the Bush agenda of corporate giveaways, job-crushing free trade deals, war profiteering in Iraq, and subprime mortgage profiteering in Indiana, Idaho, Illinois and, yes, Iowa.

Edwards summed up his increasingly aggressive and powerful anti-corporate themes with a declaration: "What makes America America is at stake: jobs, the middle class, health care, preserving the environment in the world for future generations.

"But all those things are at risk. And why are they at risk? Because of corporate power and corporate greed in Washington, D.C. And we have to take them on. You can't make a deal with them. You can't hope that they're going to go away. You have to actually be willing to fight. And I want every caucus-goer to know I've been fighting these people and winning my entire life. And if we do this together, rise up together, we can actually make absolutely certain, starting here in Iowa, that we make this country better than we left it."

But the former senator's most effective statement at the Des Moines Register debate on Thursday was one that reflected his deep level of engagement with working people in the upper Midwest, an engagement born of long months spent in Iowa and neighboring states -- at a time when Clinton and Obama were spending considerably more time fighting over who had better relations with the media moguls on Hollywood's A-list and in the suites of Manhattan's mortgage manipulators.

Edwards got to know workers in Iowa. He stood with them in their struggles.

Turning a broad question about human rights toward the specific issue of trade policy, the former senator said that human rights, human needs and human values "should be central to our trade policy."

"But," he added, "if you look at what's happened with American trade policy, look at what America got: Big corporations made a lot of money, are continuing to make a lot of money in China. But what did America get in return? We got millions of dangerous Chinese toys. We lost millions of jobs.

"And right here in Iowa, the Maytag plant in Newton closed. A guy named Doug Bishop, who I got to know very well, had worked in that plant, and his family had worked in that plant literally for generations. And his job is now gone. The same thing, by the way, happened in the plant that my father worked in when I was growing up. It is so important that we stop allowing these corporate powers and corporate profits to run America's policy, whether it's trade policy, how we engage with China. This is not good for America. It's not good for American jobs. And it's not good for working people in this country."

That's an issue Edwards has taken far, far more seriously than his opponents in what is now a three-way race in Iowa. And that seriousness has benefitted the former senator.

Remembering the workers who have been battered by the failed trade policies of the Clinton and Bush administrations matters. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, both supporters of recent trade agreements, have never connected on the same level. Edwards, who once had a shaky record on these issues but has come to be a passionate proponent of fair trade, comes across as the candidate who gets it. That's why he won the debate in Des Moines. That's why every serious survey that has been conducted in recent days shows him within striking distance of the Iowa win that once was assumed to be Clinton's for the taking and that was then supposed to be Obama's.

No one who is watching the rapid evolution of this race is any longer counting Edwards out in Iowa -- or in the rest of a yet-to-be-defined race for the Democratic nomination.

"Support The Troops" - Literally

There was plenty of talk about "supporting the troops" this year. Major newspapers referenced the vague phrase over 2,000 times in 2007 -- compared to about 3,100 references to General David Petraeus. Yet the holidays are a good time to literally support the troops. You can help our men and women in uniform by donating to USO, the non-profit organization that serves soldiers and their families.

USO runs basic programs, like Internet and phone service to connect families and video recording enabling soldiers to read to their children while stationed abroad. The USO also sponsors entertainment tours to boost troop morale -- recent events have featured actor Chuck Norris, comedian Lewis Black and the rapper Paul Wall, who visited Iraq this August. In addition to donating to USO, Americans can also send letters to soldiers through the Defense Department's message center.

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Chuck Norris visits soldiers in the 45th Air Ambulance Medical Company on a USO Tour in Iraq. (Photo Credit: USO, October 2006.)

The FBI Plan to Round Up 12,000 - in 1950

A week after US troops were sent to fight in far-away country, the FBI proposed to the president that 12,000 people be rounded up and detained as "potentially dangerous" to national security. Almost all of them were citizens, and the FBI proposed that the president suspend habeas corpus to make the roundup constitutional.

The president, however, was not George W. Bush, and the war in question was not the war on terror – it was the Korean War.

The plan, outlined in a 1950 letter from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to an assistant to President Harry Truman, called for "permanent detention" of the 12,000. That was deemed necessary to "protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage."

Hoover told Truman that the FBI had spent "a long period of time" creating a list of "approximately twelve thousand individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven per cent are citizens of the United States." The 12,000 names were not included in the proposal that was declassified on Dec. 22.

The equivalent proportion of the population today would be 25,000 people.

What would such a roundup look like? Now we know: Hoover was concerned about making sure it would hold up in court. The way to do that, he wrote, was the president would issue a proclamation that "recites the existence of the emergency situation and that in order to immediately protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage, the Attorney General is instructed to apprehend all individuals potentially dangerous to the internal security." In order for that to be legal, the president's proclamation would suspend habeas corpus.

Then Congress would pass a "joint resolution" supporting the roundup, and the president would issue an executive order to the FBI to go to work.

Hoover's other concern was where to jail 12,000 people. So many of the people on the lists lived in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco that prisons there weren't big enough to hold all of them. So for the targets those cities, Hoover proposed "detention in military facilities."

Although George W. Bush was only four years old at the time, the 1950 plan has some striking parallels to his policies today. After 9-11, as Tim Weiner of the New York Times explained, Bush "issued an order that effectively allowed the United States to hold suspects indefinitely without a hearing, a lawyer, or formal charges." Last year Congress passed a law formally suspending habeas corpus for anyone named by the president as an "unlawful enemy combatant." The Supreme Court is reviewing that law this term.

There are significant differences, however: Hoover's 1950 plan required "a statement of charges to be served on each detainee and a hearing to be afforded the individual within a specified period."

And there's one other difference between the 1950 plan and our present war on terror: President Truman ignored the FBI proposal and never went to the Supreme Court to argue that habeas corpus did not apply to people detained as threats to the country.

Hoover's letter was included in the latest volume in the State Department series "Foreign Relations of the United States" released on Dec. 22 with the modest title "The Intelligence Community, 1950-1955." The volume is 759 pages long and is online; the Hoover letter can be found here on page 18. New York Times reporter Tim Weiner gets credit for discovering the Hoover letter -- he reported the story on Dec. 23.

"On the Side of the Rebel Jesus"

The finest Christmas songs are never just Christmas songs. Though linked by reference of sentiment to the Christmastide, they are sufficiently universal in their themes to have meaning throughout the year. Surely this is why so many of us return with such frequency and glad tiding to Jackson Browne's "The Rebel Jesus," a song he first performed on the brilliant 1991 Chieftains album, "The Bells of Dublin."

Over the ensuing 16 years, the song has become a favorite for celebrants of the season who suspect the Nazarene might be disinclined toward the commercial chaos that has come to characterize its contemporary expression.

So it was that, when Jackson Browne and I appeared together last week in New York, as part of the Culture Project brilliant series of discussions and performances on behalf of the impeachment movement, we spent a predictable period of time discussing the high crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush/Cheney administration, along with the prospects of replacing these lump-of-coal leaders with more deserving tribunes of the American promise -- Browne's an enthusiastic backer of John Edwards' presidential campaign. But we spoke at somewhat greater some length of "The Rebel Jesus."

Browne knows the song has taken on a life of its own, as all great songs do. Yet, through all the renditions over the years, by its writer and the many fine artists who have covered it, "The Rebel Jesus" remains fresh and renewing. Perhaps that is because Browne's lyrics, world-weary and wry in their observations yet warm in their delivery, offer an ancient antidote to the dispiriting crush of commerce, the tyranny of schedules and the theft of meaning that can crowd the better angels of our nature at Christmas:

All the streets are filled with laughter and light

And the music of the season

And the merchants' windows are all bright

With the faces of the children

And the families hurrying to their homes

As the sky darkens and freezes

They'll be gathering around the hearths and tales

Giving thanks for all God's graces

And the birth of the rebel Jesus

.

Well they call him by the prince of peace

And they call him by the savior

And they pray to him upon the seas

And in every bold endeavor

As they fill his churches with their pride and gold

And their faith in him increases

But they've turned the nature that I worshipped in

From a temple to a robber's den

In the words of the rebel Jesus

.

We guard our world with locks and guns

And we guard our fine possessions

And once a year when Christmas comes

We give to our relations

And perhaps we give a little to the poor

If the generosity should seize us

But if any one of us should interfere

In the business of why they are poor

They get the same as the rebel Jesus

.

But please forgive me if I seem

To take the tone of judgment

For I've no wish to come between

This day and your enjoyment

In this life of hardship and of earthly toil

We have need for anything that frees us

So I bid you pleasure

And I bid you cheer

From a heathen and a pagan

On the side of the rebel Jesus.

Lawyers Stepping Up

We are lawyers in the United States of America. As such, we have all taken an oath obligating us to defend the Constitution and the rule of law…. We believe the Bush administration has committed numerous offenses against the Constitution and may have violated federal laws…. Moreover, the administration has blatantly defied congressional subpoenas, obstructing constitutional oversight …. Thus, we call on House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy to launch hearings into the possibility that crimes have been committed by this administration in violation of the Constitution…. We call for the investigations to go where they must, including into the offices of the President and the Vice President. -- American Lawyers Defending the Constitution

Over one thousand lawyers – including former Governor Mario Cuomo and former Reagan administration official Bruce Fein – have signed onto the above statement demanding wide-ranging investigative hearings into unconstitutional and potentially criminal activity by the Bush administration.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and winner of the 2007 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, said: "The majority of lawyers in this country understand that the Bush administration has really gone off the page of constitutional rights and off the page of fundamental rights, and is willing to push the Congress to restore those rights." Ratner said he was "dismayed" that a Democratic majority has failed "to push on key illegalities… the torture program, and now the destruction of the tapes involving the torture program; the warrantless wiretapping, the denial of habeas corpus, the secret sites/rendition program, special trials, and of course what we now know is the firing of US Attorneys scandal…. The minimal that absolutely is needed to get us back on the page of law is to have serious investigative hearings that go up the chain of command and figure out who is responsible for what."

Ratner noted that even with regard to the US attorney's investigations, where Congressional committees held Harriet Miers, Josh Bolten, and Karl Rove in contempt, leadership has failed to enforce these actions by bringing the resolutions to a vote. "Just announcing that investigations will be held and subpoenas will be issued is terribly insufficient unless Congress is willing to enforce the subpoenas by issuing contempt citations," Ratner said. "Congress has a constitutional duty to oversee the activities of the executive branch and our entire system of government is threatened when Congress simply folds before an obstinate executive. Issuing contempt citations against Bolten, Miers, and Rove should be Congress's first order of business in 2008."

Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild, discussed the administration's torture program violating three US-ratified treaties and the US torture statute; the illegal War in Iraq violating the US-ratified UN Charter as a war of aggression; and Attorney General Michael Mukasey's conflict of interest in overseeing investigations into the torture program and the destruction of the CIA interrogations tapes.

Also speaking with reporters was Jesselyn Raddack, a former Justice Department ethics lawyer who served as an advisor during the interrogation of John Walker Lindh (the "American Taliban"). Raddack said, "My e-mails documented my advice against interrogating Lindh without a lawyer, and concluded that the FBI committed an ethics violation when it did so anyway. Both the CIA videotapes and my e-mails were destroyed, in part, because officials were concerned that they documented controversial interrogation methods that could put agency officials in legal jeopardy…. " Raddack pointed to the Department of Justice's investigations of Enron and Arthur Anderson for obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence, and the need for the same aggressive oversight and legal proceedings in these scandals.

This is a vital effort by those charged with defending our constitution, as Ratner said, "This lawyers' letter and the growing number of signatures we'll have on it, and prominent people – it's a way of saying to Congress, ‘You need some backbone. You need to have a serious investigation, wherever it might go, on these issues that really have taken the United States out of the mainstream of human rights.' It's absolutely critical… We've opened up the door to illegality…. Unless we have accountability on those illegalities, we're going to be facing a very bleak future in which fundamental rights will not really be obeyed."

Hoppy's Black Shirt, Lucy's Redness, and George's Magic Hour

Here's a little holiday quiz–all questions (and answers) drawn from my book, The End of Victory Culture. Think of this as the beginning of a secret cultural history in trivia of our political times:

1. What was the great commercial triumph of cowboy hero Hopalong Cassidy with his "spine-tingling episodes never before shown on TV!"? (Answer: Marketing his signature black shirt to one million children soon after World War II, at a time when black was still associated with mourning or Italian fascism.)

2. What did Desi Arnaz tell the studio audience of the top-rated TV comedy I Love Lucy in 1953, after Lucy was accused of being a communist by gossip columnist Walter Winchell? (Answer: "And now I want you to meet my favorite wife -- my favorite redhead -- in fact, that's the only thing red about her, and even that's not legitimate.")

3. When did the first interracial kiss make it onto television? (Answer: November 22, 1968, in outer space. Star Trek's Captain Kirk had to turn his back to the camera to simulate placing that kiss on Lieutenant Uhuru.)

4. From what movie did junior officers at the Army Command and General Staff at Fort Leavenworth, responsible for planning some of the ground campaign in the first Gulf War, choose a nickname -- and what was it? (Answer: Star Wars and it was "Jedi Knights.")

5. When, on May 1, 2003, George W. Bush made his carefully timed, late afternoon landing on, and strut across, the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, to announce that "major combat operations" had ended in Iraq against the backdrop of that infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner, what term did his advance men use for the photogenic moment chosen? (Answer: "Magic hour light.")

[Note: If you want to learn a little about the more serious side of The End of Victory Culture, just click here.]

The MVP of 2007

My colleague Joan Connell's end-of-year review highlighted those issues that Nation.com readers found of most importance during the course of this past year of alarming news and amazing reporting on the Iraq War, the rise of private mercenary firms, the burgeoning business of disaster capitalism, the imploding of the GOP and the disappointments of the Democrats, and an increasingly vulnerable environment.

We're also running an end-of-year poll asking readers to weigh in on their year's MVP--Most Valuable Progressive.

Here are the candidates:

  • Valerie Plame, for weathering a scandal that ultimately exposed the lies that led us to war.
  • Joshua Micah Marshall, for a principled and well-reported alternative to mainstream media.
  • Dennis Kucinich, for putting peace and social justice at the center of his presidential campaign.
  • Michael Ratner, for legal challenges to Gitmo detentions and illegal wiretaps.
  • Amy Goodman, for the courage to tell the really important stories.
  • Markos Moulitsas, for demonstrating the power of the netroots.
  • Dick Cheney, for demonstrating the need for progressive leadership.
  • Click here to vote. And please use the comments field below to let us know about all the worthy candidates we undoubtedly left out.

    I also wanted to recommend Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon's sixteenth annual P.U.-litzer Prize Awards dedicated to recognizing the "truly stinkiest media performances of the year" and the Alternet staff's roundup of the most popular videos of the year.

    Thanks for reading (and acting!) in 2007 and happy holidays!

    Women’s Voices, Women Vote

    In 2004, 20 million unmarried women – single, divorced, separated or widowed – didn't vote. In 2006, that number was 30 million. Depressing? Yes. But in 2008, these women are also known as the voting bloc that could determine the outcome of this election and many more to come.

    Unmarried women make up the largest bloc of non-voters in the nation. Over 26 percent of eligible voters – 53 million people – are unmarried women. And for the first time in history there are as many women who are unmarried as married. A majority of households in the nation are headed by an unmarried person. Unmarried women are growing at twice the rate of married women since 2000, but are 9 percentage points less likely to register and 13 percentage points less likely to vote than married women.

    Women's Voices. Women Vote. (WVWV) is targeting 25 states in an effort to register over one million unmarried women and reach out to an additional 3 million "low-propensity voters." (Unmarried women who are registered but didn't vote in at least one of the last two presidential elections.) WVWV Founder and President, Page Gardner, says, "We are making sure the voices of women on their own are heard in the political process. Particularly, that they are heard from in terms of the strength of their numbers. Polling shows that these women are paying attention earlier than ever before and they are motivated. They are wanting change, they are desperate for change, and we are going to see their participation go up." Gardner points to a recent study by the polling firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, that showed 85 percent of unmarried women saying they are so frustrated with the direction of the country, they are more likely to vote.

    WVWV understands that it's not just about registering the voters but also getting them to cast their ballots. "Given their income, many of these women are incredibly stretched," Gardner says. "We have to not only take the registration to them, we have to take the voting booth to them too." She says that in 2006 they conducted a vote-by-mail program that was "extraordinarily successful." (All WVWV programs are tested before they are rolled out – with a control group and a treatment group – so the value of the program in gaining new voters and its cost-effectiveness can be determined.) In addition to registration forms, WVWV will be providing vote-by-mail applications so that women can vote at their convenience and take their time to study the candidates. The group also has a strong online presence, including widgets and banners that people can place on their own sites, allowing visitors to watch a "20 million Reasons" PSA campaign and register to vote.

    In contrast to married women, Gardner says, unmarried women are largely driven by economic issues when it comes to their politics. She points to the fact that 44 percent of them live in households with annual incomes of $30,000 or less, while approximately 44 percent of married women live in households earning over $75,000 annually. One in five unmarried women lacks health care, and 50 percent of children who are age six or younger – and live with single Moms – live in poverty. The connection between this voting bloc's economic concerns and its potential power at the polls isn't lost on Ann Lewis, Senior Advisor at Hillary Clinton for President. Lewis coined the phrase "single anxious female" which has since gained traction in the press.

    "I was talking to a reporter who used a term I didn't like – something that sounded too Sex and the City," Lewis told me. "So I said that wasn't accurate, the biggest common factor was economic anxiety, more like single anxious female."

    According to Lewis, the Clinton campaign has a layered program to connect with "women on their own" and make an impact. "We know that they are more likely to be economically vulnerable," she says, "and to think of themselves as outsiders to the political system. So our outreach programs include an emphasis on economic issues that make a difference in their lives – like equal pay – where Hillary has been the leader in the Senate on strengthening equal pay laws. We also did a series of events around Equal Pay Day in the early primary states and nationwide. In New Hampshire, we held a panel discussion led by Evelyn Murphy, an expert on equal pay, and released a list of women supporters, including the [New Hampshire] co-chair who was also the first woman firefighter in the state. In Iowa, [former First Lady of Iowa] Christie Vilsack did a press conference with two cakes – one whole one representing men's pay, and one with a big slice taken out for women's pay; in Nevada, an open letter was signed by many women urging support for Hillary's equal pay bill. Meanwhile, nationally, Hillary spoke at a rally at the Capitol – as she has done before. We also featured a calculator on our website where women could figure out their own wage gap. Hillary also often talks about her commitment to Social Security – and her opposition to Republican attempts to privatize it – as an example of where she stands up and fights. Single women also often have family responsibilities – Hillary talks about her work for children's health, and also issues like long-term care, because being responsible for aging parents is a growing concern."

    Audrey Waters, spokesperson for the John Edwards for President campaign, says that Senator Edwards has an agenda that strikes a chord with all women, and his economic platform in particular appeals to unmarried women. "Senator Edwards has proposed a bold and specific policy agenda on issues that most directly impact women voters," says Waters. "We're proud of the tremendous support it has earned Senator Edwards among women." She also points to the campaign website's Women for Edwards page and "an extensive outreach effort, led in part by NARAL Pro-Choice America President Emeritus, Kate Michelman, who has campaigned for us in New Hampshire and other early states."

    While Lewis and Waters both point to the importance their campaigns place on addressing issues of particular concern to unmarried women, the Obama for America campaign seems to have a different approach. Spokesperson Jen Psaki said, "Women connect with Barack's message regardless of age, marital status or income because of the new ideas and real change he'll bring to Washington. All women are tired of politicians telling them what they want to hear; Barack tells them what they need to hear. They want an end to divisive politics in Washington and Barack is the only candidate who's actually worked to bring people together to get things done that matter to people – in the Illinois and US Senate he's been able to bring Republicans and Democrats together to pass ethics reforms, health care for uninsured children, domestic violence prevention, and bring change to the way government works." Psaki described the Obama campaign's outreach efforts: "We have a broad approach to communicating with women and some of that outreach connects in particular with younger, unmarried women through blogs, emails, e-newsletters, and podcasts. But the most effective way to reach out to undecided women is through the one-on-one contact that our supporters have with their undecided friends, family, colleagues and neighbors. It's that kind of outreach that's created our 20,000 women-strong grassroots organization, Women for Obama. These women have hosted house parties, book clubs, phone banks, Girls Night Out, canvassing, and other grassroots events to bring women together with other women to talk about their support for Obama."

    Lewis also says that the Clinton campaign works hard in its outreach efforts to address feelings unmarried women have of being political outsiders. She says, "Our program in Iowa, for example, is geared to encouraging people, especially women, who have not caucused before: our Caucus with a Buddy program and the video Caucusing is Easy. We also feature women as messengers, knowing that woman-to-woman communication can be particularly effective. Single women strongly support having more women in elected office; many of our surrogates are elected women leaders, like Senator Barbara Mikulski, Congresswomen Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, Sheila Jackson Lee, Allyson Schwartz, Hilda Solis, etc…."

    While the campaigns vie for this voting bloc that the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner study describedas "hav[ing] the power to reshape American politics further, if they vote," Gardner and WVWV will continue to do the hard work to make sure their voices are heard. She says they have partnered with both state and national organizations, including state-based and national groups, USAction Education Fund, Project Vote, Working America, and others.

    "Our attitude is, ‘Steal this book,' Gardner says. "We share our materials, research, lists – anything to help [other 501c3] organizations increase the participation rates of unmarried women… anyone interested in doing that, we consider partners." Gardner says that every year since WVWV's founding in 2004 the organization's voter lists have grown in value, and their programs are increasingly innovative. "We have the best marital status model – predicting the likelihood that a person is unmarried – in the country," she says. "We have designed a model to predict who is and who is not likely to respond to voter registration and vote-by-mail efforts, so that helps organizations use their dollars wisely. And we know the issues that concern these women so we can ensure that we are talking to them in a way that resonates."

    Gardner knows the impact that unmarried women can have – not only in 2008 – but the years ahead. "What we're trying to do by making this group of women heard – not just through voting, but advocating for their issues, and making sure politicians see their power – that they are the decisive factor in so many races….We are saying that their issues of concern need to be at the top of the list. Their power when they participate is astounding. We want that power realized, and their agenda to become America's agenda."