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September 2, 2004


Real Americans

Zell Miller isn’t the only one deserting his party this year – many Republicans who are disillusioned with their President won’t make the mistake of voting for him again. And unlike Miller, many of them have the advantage of not being batshit crazy.

Errol Morris is highlighting these folks in a series of ads for MoveOn.org that began airing this week. Like his highly successful Apple “Switch” ads, the “Real People” campaign features life-long Republicans who will be voting for Kerry in November. Morris’ goal with the ads was to get away from political rhetoric, and feature “Americans speaking to other Americans in their own words, expressing their beliefs and their hopes for the future,” in an election “that will define how America is perceived around the world and, just as important, what America is for all of us.”

He's done a pretty amazing job. When MoveOn.org sent out an email soliciting “Authentic American voices committed to change”, they received over 20,000 responses. These were narrowed down to a final 41 former Republicans – including a financial advisor, a former ambassador, a commercial fisherman, an ex-Marine, and a construction worker. Morris interviewed each person for an hour, and then cut the footage down to 26 seconds.

The ads have been up on MoveOn’s website for the past few weeks, and you can view them and vote on your favorites here. MoveOn is still accepting donations to air the ads; so far they have received $1 million towards their goal of $3 million. The overall winner (and first to air) is Marine Lee Buttrill, who served in Iraq. My personal favorite is Rhonda Nix from Louisiana, who’s profiled in this excellent New Yorker article about the ad campaign.

This is Rhonda’s ad:
“We’ve got to take care of this country. It upsets me that you can go and spend billions and billions of dollars trying to liberate other people, when there’s so many people here—they don’t need liberation, but they need health care, they need food on their table, they need education. It is time to invest in this country. That’s what I want to hear about, that we’re being taken care of—here, at home. I’m still a Baptist, but I’m no longer a Republican.”

What didn’t make the 26-second cut is that Rhonda grew up “dirt poor” and dropped out of school in ninth grade to help support her family. “Where I’m from there’s two things,” she says. “You’re Southern Baptist and you’re a Republican.” Rhonda is now married, with a home and a job at her husband’s family business. She feels hoodwinked by the Bush administration, frustrated that she wouldn’t have made enough money to receive the child tax credit when she was a struggling single mother and needed it most. The Kerry sign on her front lawn has been vandalized, and her father-in-law has refused to speak to her since he found out she was participating in this ad campaign.

I’ve been alarmed lately by the way pundits and journalists are throwing around phrases like “Southern-fried” in reference to the Republican's campaign and convention entertainment. And when Morris first approached the Kerry campaign with this idea, they rejected it. When you live and work in a liberal community, it’s easy to forget that the Democratic party needs "real people" like rural voters, and working-class voters, and yes, even Baptist voters. In fact, we need all the voters we can get. Hopefully, those voters will listen to people like Rhonda Nix.

categories: Politics
posted by Emily at 5:04 PM | #