Saturday, May 30, 2015

Kansas City conversations

Barber Shop in Stockton
I flew out to Kansas City last weekend to do research on how Americans think about money in politics for a coalition of advocacy groups who work on campaign finance reform.  One of the major foundations that funds these groups wants us to create an umbrella strategy for the whole diverse set of approaches.

A few weeks ago I was working on the same project out in California, in San Jose and Stockton, working with a colleague and a videographer.  But this trip was solo.  I was writing the protocol, planning the day, button-holing the subjects, working the camera and mic, conducting the interviews, interpreting and processing the results.

young couple in KC

It's tiring work, but it's anthropology and it's fascinating.  (Unfortunately, it was also raining much of Saturday and Sunday and I'd caught a miserable head cold from Nico.)

It's been a tough project, full of cul de sacs and plenty of ideas that seemed promising, but wouldn't pan out.

Ultimately, it turns out that we're all used to talking about the topic within the frame of corruption and the hijacking of our democracy by the wealthy and powerful.  This  elicits an appropriate anger from people, but it also elicits negativity and hopelessness.  And that was the wall that we had come up against.

Alternately, you can tap into an underlying faith that people have in a government of the people and by the people - and what it would mean if we leveled the playing field so that regular people could once again get elected to public office.

And suddenly campaign finance reform is a common sense solution to a coherent problem.  And you have a completely different conversation.

Memorial Day shook off it's rainy morning and I cleared my head as best I could.  I pestered the shoppers at the plaza and the hip outposts of Westport, and hit I the cookouts in the Mexican and Black neighborhoods eastwards.

And I assembled my video evidence that we have a better way to engage people on how to deal with money in politics.