The Revolution Will Be Televised

When the Florida Marlins beat the New York Yankees to win the World Series last week, Mike Lupica of the New York Daily news wrote of the winning team, "Their payroll is one-third the size of the Yankees’. In the end they were 10 times the baseball team."

Lupica brings up an interesting point about what money really buys. Spending the most doesn’t always mean getting the best. Most of us have come to accept paying up to $10 to see a movie that’s probably worth $4, and forking out a buck for water that is actually free. So you don’t always get what you pay for. Sometimes you don’t even get who you vote for.

The idea that money doesn’t automatically imply quality or victory and that the little guy can be a winner seem to be two key principals behind an interesting experiment sponsored by the Voter Fund, Bush In 30 Seconds.

Bush In 30 Seconds is MoveOn’s national contest to find the best 30-second TV spot showcasing any failed policy of the Bush administration. Pick a policy. Any policy. If you make a persuasive and creative case against it your spot could be aired during the week of Bush’s 2004 State of the Union address.

If you want to win you have to get past a few hurdles. All eligible video submissions will be posted on MoveOn’s website so MoveOn’s 1.6 million members can get a chance to pick their favorite ads first. Those that make the cut will then be voted on by a panel of celebrity judges, a lineup that reads like a who’s who of the nation’s film, music and political communities: Janeane Garofalo, James Carville, Hector Elizondo, Margaret Cho, Jack Black, Oscar winner Michael Moore, Michael Stipe and on and on ... kind of like the guest list of a great party.

Speaking of big names, Moby is one of the organizers of Bush In 30 Seconds. In a recent telephone press conference put on by MoveOn, Moby said that he realized the Democrats had a enormous constituency they were ignoring in the largely liberal creative community. He and fellow musical artist Laura Dawn hatched the idea of putting this powerful untapped resource to work. Dawn contacted friends like Jonathan Soros who were having similar ideas, and a contest was born. MoveOn is known for moving quickly, but so strong was the enthusiasm, it took only three weeks to whip the project together.

Eli Pariser, MoveOn’s campaigns manager, says that from the beginning the group has "focused on bringing the everyday American into the political process," and that goal is interestingly reflected in this very democratic way of getting an ad made, a sort of "Project Greenlight," for the campaign set.

Many voters have tuned out the slick political ads made year after year by the usual Beltway suspects; a small coterie of Washington consultants. The Bush In 30 Seconds team intends to open up the playing field. This contest presents an opportunity to engage voters with creative messages made by new talent that will convey what’s really at stake in Election 2004.

"The ad doesn’t have to be TV quality," Pariser explains. "We will remake the ad for TV if necessary."

No background in film is required; just a good idea, clearly expressed on video. There won’t be any pricey agencies, focus groups or test screenings, though contest co-founder Soros points out that they can boast the participation of Stan Greenberg, a pollster who has advised Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Tony Blair.

Pariser says that the tens of thousands of votes the group anticipates on the ads should tell "whether these ads will resonate" with the public.

Is it possible for a taking-it-to-the-people campaign like this to help the Democrats pull a Marlins-style victory over Bush and his astonishing fund-raising efforts? CNN reported on October 15 that Bush "raked in $49.5 million over the past three months for his re-election bid—a total that appears to surpass the collective haul of his nine Democratic rivals, according to campaign officials."

Actually the whole contest idea reminds me of a political "American Idol": It’ll be fun to watch the bad stuff, nice to see the good stuff and a real joy to see someone without all the money and family ties in the world get a chance to play in the big leagues.

For information on how to enter the content, visit Bush In 30 Seconds at Voter Fund.

Liz Langley is a freelance writer and the creator of

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