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Correction to This Article
An article in the Oct. 17 Style section described Bronwyn Keenan as the founder of Downtown for Democracy. She is one of several people who helped create the group and is a member of its steering committee. The same article mistakenly described Eli Pariser as the founder of MoveOn.org. The Web site was founded by Wes Boyd and Joan Blades.

Vote Swingers

Suddenly Politics Is Hot Again. Sometimes, Really Hot.

By Hanna Rosin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 17, 2004; Page D01


Usually when you walk down upper Broadway late on a Saturday night, girls don't come up to you and say, "You wanna have sex?" Not even really drunk ones, stumbling out of the sticky-floored West End bar.

But this girl just said it again. She's not drunk and she's cute in that hot-girl-next-door way, the one who used to tan on the lawn in her bikini and whose boyfriend was never around.

John Mulhern gets double-bussed at a party in New York for Votergasm.org, a group that links doing one's civic duty to "pledge-fulfilling sex." (Helayne Seidman - For The Washington Post)

So these two cool nerds from Columbia University take a step back but they hear her out.

"On election night," Julie Binder says. "You wanna get laid on election night?"

"Oh, I've heard of you guys," says Brian Lin, relieved this is not some freaky hooker encounter. "Orgasmo or something, right?"

Actually, Votergasm. A group that wants you to pledge to withhold sex from nonvoters for a week after the election ("Citizen" level), or have sex with a voter ("Patriot"). Make love not war, updated for this giddy, hipster, woke-up-to-politics-yesterday club scene that is the protest left in the 2004 election.

"Is there like a screening process?" Lin asks, because now he wants in. So he follows her into the back room of the bar to the clipboards: ("Pledge-fulfilling sex must be consensual, legal and generous. And safe. And hot.") Behind him wait two guys arguing about Michael Moore and whether "George got his [butt] whupped" at the debate. Def Leppard is on, the beer is free, the beer pong is into its 25th round, and one Columbia frosh is getting some sugar from two seriously hot babes.

For nearly 20 years, Rock the Vote has tried to make politics dope, and the publicists always seem to be working too hard. Now, the moment is here. The cool kids of downtown New York hang "Bush Lies" posters in their loft windows, pin Kerry/Edwards buttons on their Calypso bags. Hipsters who otherwise wouldn't be caught dead in Ohio now trek there weekly to sign up voters, throw "New York-style" parties, and film it all for some future MTV-like version of "Road Trip -- Dayton, Uncut."

Outside New York there is Biking Against Bush and Bowling Against Bush and Karaoke for Kerry. And for the more contemplative set, "Moonlight Yoga for Change." They all want deeply, passionately, earnestly to end the war and get rid of President Bush. But if they don't, they can be sure that they had the best parties.

If you are an actor wanting to get discovered, you sign up with Billionaires for Bush, a satiric street theater protest group. If you are an agent who wants to meet writers, you throw a John Kerry fundraiser or a debate party. If you are a rock group, you try to hook up with MoveOn.org and get on the Vote for Change tour.

Two weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh spent two shows obsessing about what he called the "orgasm voters," and this was awesome, definitely an occasion for a party. When publicist Michelle Collins announces at the bar that Votergasm.org is on a mission to "get young people to vote and have sex," it seems to this college crowd like a perfectly natural combination.

"Vote, [expletive] yeah" yells a guy from one table.

His friend adds: "Sex is awesome."

And then everyone resumes feeling righteous and having a good time. Everyone except Holden Caulfield over there in the corner (real name: Casey Amstacher), a pale kid with shaggy black hair. "I'll have sex when I want to have sex," he says. "But sex is not like a motive for me to vote. It's silly to mix up all this sex and oh, we drink beer and we're cool and we vote for John Kerry stuff. I vote because I'm adamant about voting."

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