|Kin Clinton, Wes Yoder
and Stuart Southard, three "soccer dads" from Brentwood (Nashville), created
not-for-profit The Tennessee Forum in summer 2000. In July and August
they raised money, and in late August they launched the "Notoural" website,
which was a cornerstone of their efforts. In addition to the website,
the group ran radio and print ads. They even recorded a theme song
"Is that your final answer, Al?" (music by Bob Farnsworth of Budweiser
singing frog fame). Clinton noted he, Yoder and Southard were novices
in the political arena, and said one of the big challenges was figuring
out "Who do you communicate with?" He said they sought to avoid negative
attacks which "might have played to the faithful but certainly didn't persuade."
By Kin Clinton
We observed that Al Gore was vulnerable in Tennessee because he had,
since assuming a national political strategy, embraced the agendas of the
liberal groups that hold power in the Democratic Party on a national level.
Extreme environmentalism, irrational gun control, unfettered abortion rights,
mainstreaming of gay rights, etc. Mr. Gore was elected to Congress
and the Senate as a classic southern conservative democrat. His presidential
campaign was substantially different. Morever, we observed that the
dominant media in this area had longstanding ties to the Gore family and
was not likely to explore Gore's policy shifts. Consequently, we set out
to focus attention on these policy shifts.
drive time radio in Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. The ads covered the Buddhist Monk fundraising, the story of the zinc mine on his homestead property in Carthage, and the Boy Scouts controversy. The content consisted entirely of quotes from these same news organizations and ended with the tag "is that your final answer Al?" Finally, we ran the print version of the radio ads as full page ads in local/community papers throughout the area and leased a couple of billboards.
In total, we spent about $225,000, mostly on radio. The media ran in 21 counties. Statewide Bush won by about 79,000 votes. He had a 69,000 vote margin in these counties. This included Gore's former congressional district, which he would have lost. The website attracted about 350,000 visitors in the two and a half months it was active. We shut it down on election day.
Frankly, we were amazed at how effective the campaign appears to have been. Neither the Gore campaign nor the Bush team spent any media money here until the last two weeks of the campaign. By then, the only other group running local media was the NRA. Ultimately, we believe that Mr. Gore did not fully appreciate the extent to which his policies had moved away from the more conservative views of his former base. It was not necessary for us to "attack" Mr. Gore, we only needed to give exposure to a broader media that more fairly examined his record.
This experience has been most interesting for all of us and reaffirmed our sense that "average" citizens can still make a difference.
Copyright 2001 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.