Launched on January 19, 2017—the day before Republican Donald Trump was inaugurated as U.S. President—Swing Left (SL) describes itself as “an online community” whose mission is to thwart the Trump agenda and to help Democrats regain and maintain control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. At its inception, SL stated that it hoped to bring this goal to fruition quickly, perhaps as early as the 2018 mid-term elections.
SL’s modus operandi is to help pro-Democrat voters across the United States become politically active in the “Swing Districts”—defined as places where the last election was won by 15% of the vote or less—that are geographically closest to them. By SL’s calculus, Democrats in 2018 would “need to win 65% of all Swing Districts to take back the House.” Alternatively, said the organization, “If we hold the 17 vulnerable Democratic-held districts, we only need to flip 24 House seats—exactly half of the 48 Republican-held districts on our list—to take back the House in 2018. This is a winnable fight.” In an effort to inspire potential supporters to become engaged in the cause, SL stated: “In the words of Barack Obama, We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. And so are you.”
Swing Left was founded by Ethan Todras-Whitehill, a writer and teacher; Joshua Krafchin, a marketer and entrepreneur; and Miriam Stone, a brand strategist. During the first three days of the organization’s existence, some 150,000 people signed up to help as volunteers. Within three weeks, that number had grown to 300,000.
To get involved with SL, people simply enter their zip code in the appropriate field on the SwingLeft.org website. In turn, they are directed to the Swing Districts located nearest to them. Thereafter, SL regularly sends them emails that detail exactly how they can become active in volunteer efforts to help Democratic candidates in those locales. Such activities may include making donations, participating in fundraising efforts, spreading the word about candidates on social media, door-to-door canvassing, working on a phone bank, attending events, and more.
In an effort to provide “a financial head start” for Democratic nominees in the general House elections, SL has established a fundraising initiative called District Funds, which provides “pots of money, raised in advance, for the eventual Democratic nominee in each Swing District.” Democratic incumbents in those districts are given this money immediately, while Democratic nominee challengers to Republican-held seats get the money the day after they win their primaries. Explaining the rationale behind this initiative, SL says: “Candidates often emerge from primaries cash poor. Challengers tend to spend most of their available funds in the primaries…. The earlier candidates get money, the better. Hiring new staff, buying ads, etc. is more effective when it’s done six months as opposed to six weeks before the election. (Closer to the election, ads cost more, for example.) This is especially critical for challengers, who have far less name recognition and infrastructure than the incumbent.”
Swing Left is registered as a Carey Political Action Committee, meaning that it can “support progressive candidates” with donations of up to $5,000 per person, and can fund general Swing Left activities through “donations that have no upper limit.”