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Frank Costanzo Guest Blogger

All, thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts.

I have been pondering the Easter Island statues.  For hundreds of years, these enigmatic blocks of rock with their huge eyes have been looking out to the sea in hopes of seeing others of “their kind.”  The SETI telescope array is reminiscent of the Easter Island display.  With numerous dishes pointed to the heavens, modern man searches for life in the universe.  We are always seeking “our kind.”  In this case intelligent life.

So it is for those of us who are Red State Progressives.  We are always searching, always looking for “our kind.”   The problem is that often we are as static as the Easter Island stones or the SETI telescopes.  We stand still and hope that a progressive comes into view, identifies themselves as “our kind” and engages us in dialogue.  On the rare occasion that this happens, the conversation tends to center on the less intelligent life forms, the non-progressives. 

I submit, that our jobs are to be proactive and to present our views in a cohesive rational fashion.  With the proliferation of radio talk shows (and blogs) there has been a debate about our participation in such shows presented by the rightwing.  Some argue that we should stay away as those who listen to and participate in such can never be swayed to our side.  That it is just a waste of time and effort.  Others believe we should participate if for no other reason to take up the air-time.  I think we should not shrink from any opportunity to present our views and be proud of them.

After all, what are our beliefs; at a minimum tolerance.  But it all boils down to respect.  We respect people and their views.  We respect the freedom of others to do what they wish.  Oddly, in this regard, we are not far apart from the conservatives who espouse the notions of personal freedoms and liberties.  Perhaps that is what we should be telling them.

So I ask do we bother to speak our truth even in conservative venues or do we use our time to work with the undecided or the persuadable masses?

Frank Costanzo

Phoenix, Arizona

Posted by Frank Costanzo on May 2, 2005 at 07:23 PM | Permalink


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Frank, thank you for blogging with us at MViMV and for the very thoughtful blog.

I used to look forward to debating the "otherside" but in my "old" age, I've found myself less tolerant of the views expressed by the "otherside." I think this stems from my frustration with conservatives turning the word "liberal" into something that I wasn't supposed to be proud of. This leaves me defensive and frustrated with them. I'm trying to rekindle the ability that I used to possess to be diplomatic and understanding...respectful of others views...no matter how uneducated they might seem at times. ; )

Posted by: Charlene | May 2, 2005 8:10:55 PM

You know I have felt the same way. However, I have also encourged candidates to debate the other side occasionally to hone their skills under fire.

Posted by: Frank | May 2, 2005 8:13:29 PM

To answer your question, it seems important to me to listen and debate the otherside. We should also be willing to agree when appropriate; maybe this would set an example of how to change your opinion when something you hear makes sense.

It seems appropriate for those that are good at the above qualities to be the ones that focus on making their impact in that way. While those of us who are better at garnering the enthusiasm of those that are uncommitted focus on that.

Liane did a blog on Framing for us earlier, and

Posted by: Charlene | May 2, 2005 8:15:35 PM

Debating the otherside would be the ultimate test. I believe Andrew from DFNY got to serve that role for Howard Dean.

Posted by: Charlene | May 2, 2005 8:17:32 PM

you were cut off, but I did see Liane's comments. I guess I actually think there are some commonalities that we need to explore with the others. I do believe that under it all, given a belief they are safe, most voters vote their pocketbook.

Posted by: Frank | May 2, 2005 8:17:53 PM

When I was doing work for Dean during the campaign, I found it facinating to be in the midst of conservatives. To a person afterwards they commented that they were impressed with the fact that we would go to their locations and stand and fight for our cause.

Posted by: Frank | May 2, 2005 8:19:39 PM

Great post!

Many people can't imagine why they should risk the belittling that's sure to come from the show host, especially since they don't think it can sway any of the listeners.

But what most people don't realize is the silent part of the audience - those who don't have any other choice for "background noise" in their day. So they flip on the station that comes in. They don't agree with what they hear, but in listening, they come to believe that their own opinions are rare exceptions. These listeners, feeling they're alone, become silent.

For these listeners, hearing others who share their opinions gives them metaphorical permission to not only hold their opinions, but to express them. To me, that's the greatest value of calling into these shows.

Posted by: Liane Allen | May 2, 2005 8:20:41 PM

sorry didn't finish the Liane blogging item; what I was going to say was:

Liane did a blog on Framing for us earlier on MViMV Blog. I found it useful to discuss the points she made. While reading Lakoff was very enlightening, I need reminders to break old habits. Practicing the other side's arguments, may be the way to keep the framing idea in the forefront for me.

Posted by: Charlene | May 2, 2005 8:21:01 PM

Liane's reference to the - dare I say it - silent majority is appreciated. One never knows who is listening or who one influences.

Posted by: Frank | May 2, 2005 8:22:59 PM

Hi, Liane! You're right and thanks for bringing it up. It reminds me that Frank was speaking of those in red states. I wanted to mention that I think we should have a strong presence in the red states; I think past strategies to focus on blue and swing states were wrong.

We can't expect to propagate our message by saying it to the same people all the time.

Posted by: Charlene | May 2, 2005 8:26:42 PM

BINGO - You know I am in a red state (Arizona) with a Democratic Governor. We have a Democrcatic AG. No other Democrats in statewide office and we have little hope of capturing either house of the legislature before the next redistricting. My point had we given up on Democrats in Arizona we would not have the veto power of our great governor.

Posted by: Frank | May 2, 2005 8:30:23 PM

You have to give something to the silent majority. You also have to provide programming worth turning on; my wife can't stand the so called t.v. news and talk shows anymore because they aren't informative, are too conservative leaning and/or are so uncivil. The result is she yells back at the t.v. or refuses to even watch it anymore.

She's probably extreme but there must be a growing group like this.

Posted by: George | May 2, 2005 8:32:01 PM

George, I doubt "extreme" is the right term given the audience of MViMV. LOL.

Now, that's something I just don't get. It seems to me an indication that folks don't understand our platform if they'll vote for a Dem Governor but there's no hope of taking the house or senate.

Posted by: Charlene | May 2, 2005 8:35:28 PM

Good points George. Too often we assume everyone is a politcal junkie. One thing I advise my candidates is to insure they engage people and listen to what they have to say. It is interesting what's on people's minds especially those who rarely watch TV news or follow what pollsters say is important.

Posted by: Frank | May 2, 2005 8:36:52 PM

Good point on red states. We need to not only focus on red states (which I call lighter purple states), we need to enabling and empowering red-staters to do that work in their states.

One of the lessons learned from '04 seems to be that you can have all the good-hearted outsiders you want, but they won't be as effective as locals. It seems the adage, "all politics is local" holds true for plain old canvassing as well as issues.

Posted by: Liane Allen | May 2, 2005 8:36:54 PM

Charlene, here's the deal. The districts were redistricted with a large number of Republican safe seats. (This was with an independent commission doing the redistricting. A topic for a later conversation). Governor Napolitano ran a great race in a three way race. She defeated a Congressman by a slim majority. Since that election she has been doing so much right that it is likely she will be reelected by a large majority. The point being once in office, like most incumbents, the edge will go to her.

Posted by: Frank | May 2, 2005 8:39:43 PM

Agreed. Hopefully, Latinos For America and DFA will be successful in training folks in red states so that they will be ready to work locally. Then, we also have Dem for Texas blazing the way at DemFest with lots of Texans attending.

Posted by: charlene | May 2, 2005 8:42:07 PM

Was there any one thing in particular that seemed to give Governor Napolitano the boost that got her into office? Or was there a mini "perfect storm" of influences? Or was it more of a crap shoot?

Posted by: Liane Allen | May 2, 2005 8:42:57 PM

What really helped was a gaming initiative that brought out the Native American vote which went to her. Without it, she would have lost. I think initiatives (good or bad) with appropriate funding can be a significant way for Dem's to win. This because in most cases larger turnouts help Dems. It is an important lesson that DFA and others should use. That is sometimes you need an indirect route to elect your candidate.

Posted by: Frank | May 2, 2005 8:45:21 PM

Frank, I think you've brought up a lot interesting things with this topic.

My question is about numbers. How can grassroots people get better access to the relevant voting characteristics of local regions? Or, how can this information be better disseminated?

It seems to me that this should guide where (towards whom) a campaign might best allocate its time to win a race.

Posted by: Quintus | May 2, 2005 8:51:00 PM

Quintus - great question. This really speaks to the issue of who has access to a voter file and what can they do with it. In some states the information is available for a fee. In others, like Arizona, only the poltical parties can get the information. They can then develop their voter file and share it for a fee with any authorized political entity. The DNC takes voter files and does various matches to provide statistical and consumer info. There is talk about a possible national voter file. In any event, most county recorders, clerks or election officials in the US can provide data and sometimes that is the best source.

Posted by: Frank | May 2, 2005 8:54:51 PM

Frank, awesome blog post! I think we absolutely must engage those who don't agree and those we we think may never disagree. This is fundamental to democracy and our process. A lot of people are conservatives for so long just because their parents were and I have seen at college people who just assume thats the way to go. But after their first real long political talk with someone of a differing opinion, they begin to open up. People are willing to listen to us if the other side's talk is just talk and little action on their behalf. How do you think we can engage people who are on the far "otherside" but have just never taken the time to think about some issues that affect them without being rude?

Posted by: Scott Goldstein | May 2, 2005 9:02:17 PM

I'm starting to think the impact of what we do is affected by the extent that we are willingness to count.

Sometimes, I find discussions of outreach to non-white populations among progressive activists to be too generic. Which groups to focus on depends on their numbers and representation within the targetted electorate, it seems to me.

Posted by: Quintus | May 2, 2005 9:03:17 PM

Scott's comments are quite interesting. The Republican's actually gave us a wonderful instrument that, believe it or not, has helped us gain votes. Those votes were Libertarians who did not want to cast an ineffective vote. The issue was the Patriot Act which so many conservatives and Libertarians (as well as other thinking people) opposed.

Posted by: Frank | May 2, 2005 9:07:47 PM

Quintus - you are being kind. Our approach to minority populations to often has been insulting. Yet, we also have treated people of faith in an superior manner. This brings us back to the initial post. We need to be tolerant and respectful. However all is not lost and we can succeed. I am often reminded of the Martin Luther King quote from the "Dream" speach. Not the famous section, but where King says we are at a mountain of despair from which we shall take a rock of hope upon which we can go forward.

Posted by: Frank | May 2, 2005 9:11:47 PM

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