« McCain at Telecom Helm | Main | Labor Monday (11-11) »

November 11, 2002

Saving Bilingual Education in Colorado

One victory last Tuesday was saving bilingual education from an initiative, Amendment 31, on the ballot in Colorado. This article link outlines the strategy where the No campaign controversially fought to win.

Instead of merely playing defense with appeals to the good faith of anglo voters, the No side stooped to hitting their fears.

Instead, the TV spots are dark, showing still pictures of sad-looking children while an announcer ominously lists the faults in Amendment 31. In one, the announcer states children who speak little English, largely Hispanic students, would disrupt the education of "your children" - presumably the majority white families of Colorado.

Media critics called the spots "ugly" and said they preyed on the fears of white voters.

"Yeah, it's ominous," Welchert says in response, "but it's cutting through."

...An "a-ha" moment came in September, Britz said. They were interviewing what they considered a typical suburban voter - female, Republican, a parent. The woman was adamant in her support of 31.

Then Britz said her own children would be affected. That her child's teacher might be distracted by having to work with students who know little English.

"She turned," he said. "She said, 'They're going to put them in my kid's class?' "

That moment led to what would become a key slogan for No on 31 - the controversial "Chaos in the Classroom" theme hammered home in their TV ads.

As for the merits of the campaign and the criticism it has drawn, the two say that's politics. Welchert recalls that early meeting with Hispanic leaders.

"Do you want to win?" he asked them, "or do you want to be right?"

This is a tough story for progressives to ponder, where even I as an arch-pragmatist don't like all the implications.

But the core strategic insight is more positively that many of the bad policies targetted at the poor and people of color also potentially disrupt the lives of the white majority in most states. And when you want to win and have limited resources in a campaign, targetting the fears of that white majority may be more effective than appealing to their better nature, at least when it comes to the simplicity of message allowed in advertising wars.

Given that the rightwing has proved a willingness to jam every issue from the confederate flag to homophobia to sell their candidates and issues, a bit of pragmatic hardball in crafting message may be imperative for progressives.

Posted by Nathan at November 11, 2002 03:03 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)