Thoughtful words may dominate policy, but powerful visuals are what shape the feelings, emotions, and memories that ultimately control politics. The central focus of most modern political campaigns has become fundraising, with the overwhelming bulk of the dollars raised being spent on producing and distributing the television images that sway voter decisions. Even campaign mailings often derive far more impact from their photographs than from their more plentiful lines of text.
Certainly our world of the popular media follows this same pattern. A best-selling book may achieve as many as a million or more copies sold; but a comparably successful film can reach an audience nearly a hundred times larger. Popular monthly magazines have hundreds of thousands of readers, but weekly television programs often number their viewers in the tens of millions.
From the beginning, our web site has been intended to provide a comprehensive compendium of the words- –primarily the words of newspaper journalists— that have chronicled and shaped our initiative campaigns in California, Arizona, and more recently Colorado and Massachusetts. But although these words have certainly impacted serious newspaper readers and other opinion leaders, who probably number in the thousands or tens of thousands, they do not represent the medium through which the hundreds of thousands of voters derive their election information; and this distinction is an important one for the historical record.
For example, just three weeks before the landmark June 1998 vote on California’s Proposition 227, a large Los Angeles Times poll showed our support among Latinos running 62% to 26%, virtually identical to the overall figures of 63% to 26%, thereby provoking a number of stories on the impressive degree of ethnic unity displayed on the issue. These polling results were generally in line with those of nearly a dozen previous statewide polls by the media.
But almost precisely at that point in time, the No on 227 campaign began a multi-million-dollar barrage of powerful television ads, largely funded by Jerrold Perenchio, the Republican billionaire owner (and top Pete Wilson donor) of the Univision Spanish-language television network. Starring all four candidates for Governor—conservative Republican Dan Lungren and his three Democrats opponents—the ads urged a bipartisan No vote, falsely alleging that Proposition 227 “wouldn’t teach children English.”
This massive paid media campaign, skewed toward Latino-oriented outlets was further bolstered by unreported millions in Univision Spanish-language editorials, also urging a No vote and dishonestly merging Proposition 227 with the previous Proposition 187 and 209 initiatives, both of which had been overwhelmingly opposed by Latinos; the editorials implicitly linked Proposition 227 with loss of health-care benefits, employment, college admissions, and general rights for Latinos. Our own small advertising budget was swamped by a ratio of some 25 to 1, and probably by a far greater ratio in the Spanish-language media.
This shrewd campaign strategy by Perenchio and his hirelings achieved considerable success, for although the initiative still won a resounding 61% victory at the polls, exit polls indicated that Latino support was driven below 40%, allowing defenders of bilingual education to claim a “moral victory,” and subsequently dissuading—or rather terrifying—national politicians of both parties against endorsing similar efforts elsewhere.
In the interests of providing a more full and thorough historical record of the course of this earlier campaign, as well as providing better information on ongoing campaigns, we have now completed a major multimedia addition to our web site. Hundreds of video clips have been added from all these campaigns, ranging from the aforementioned 30-second advertising spots, to major hour-long debates on the subject. Instead of vanishing into the ether, the television and radio coverage that helped determine hundreds of thousands of votes will remain publicly and permanently available to anyone with a connection to the Internet.
These clips are provided in both RealPlayer and Windows MediaPlayer formats, and in several different speeds and resolutions, all controlled by a radio button selector at the top of each Video page. At 56K speed, the clips can be accessed (poorly) via a regular modem, while for users with a broadband connection, the 384K speed mode provides remarkable resolution and quality. In total, we are making available nearly 150 hours of streaming video, an enormous quantity of such media content by current Internet standards.
Here is the link to our new main Video page, providing links to all the video clips. These video clips are also fully integrated with the print newsclips from same time periods; for example, here is the link to the July 1997 News page, which marked the beginning of the Proposition 227 campaign. Video clips are marked with a small TV graphic. Audio clips, such as this recent hour-long discussion on NPR, http://www.onenation.org/0108/082001a.htm, are also now available, and are marked with a small microphone graphic.
And for those interested in the present and the future rather than the past, here are links to three of my own recent major debates in Massachusetts: