Sometimes one must shake life’s Etch-A-Sketch.
After three decades living in Washington, D.C. fighting in political and issue campaign wars across the country, there was no more space for lines to be drawn on the battle-scarred screen.
So much like the Clampetts, I loaded up the truck and moved to … well Sacramento, five months ago.
The place red states love to hate. The favorite target of Fox News Facebook page that’s littered with finger wagging and mockery of 40 million Californians who collectively care to have a conscience. Yes, some good intentions occasionally create a goofy outcome but better to set an example for the nation than not.
Things start here and sweep East. The fifth largest economy on earth is seemingly run in six square blocks with virtual town centers of Ambrosia, a coffee shop, and Ella, a restaurant. It is target-rich professionally, but anyone who claims it’s easy to shoot fish in a barrel has never tried. So I jumped in the barrel.
Moving to Sacramento meant not nibbling around the edges. Get in deep, dive in.
Live at the corner of Main and Street watching from my window the homeless be fed by saints at the Cathedral.
It’s a small, big town, gritty but real while Washington, D.C. is majestic but not real. There are other clear differences in the two capitals.
Our current Attorney General, Democrat Xavier Becerra, is only the latest in a line of attorneys general who have exercised their power without even a pretense of impartiality, instead skewing ballot language to lead voters towards their preferred political outcome.
Here, folks are reticent to J-walk while a stop hand in D.C. simply means be careful as there are cars racing by.
I’ve watched fried chicken eaten here with a knife and fork, which would get one beat up in my childhood home of south Louisiana. And things move slower professionally. In D.C., if an email isn’t answered in 30 minutes there is a missing person report filed.
I’ve learned in Sacramento, a day or two in an inbox isn’t the exception. Perhaps it’s because people work to live here and don’t live to work.
These cultural differences and the time zone, coupled with the cost of broadcast and cable, has made it tough for the likes of me to have a real shot breaking into the land of opportunity. But while running my political media and strategy firm I’ve watched the world of communication change dramatically as we now live with three screens, TV, desktop and your phone. Broadcast is no longer king; targeting is.
Why is California weathering the opiate epidemic better than the rest of the country?
Storytelling has always played an essential role in winning campaigns, but today’s challenge requires campaigns to deliver those stories in ways that seemed unimaginable even five years ago and through multiple screens throughout a voter’s day.
Clearly there is great professional talent in California in my space and I salute anyone who manages to make a living through campaigns, but I contend sometimes it’s healthy to expand the gene pool.
Even a “nation state” can become stale and doing things the way they have always been done works – until someone does something different.
And yes, the “Affordability Crisis” is an issue and partly to be blamed on California being a hotbed of innovation, replete with natural beauty and educated workforce.
The likes of Oklahoma are cheap for a reason.
Kathryn Phillips and Evan Gillespie of the Sierra Club wrote a commentary relative to what steps California should take to address the risk of…
D.C. has issues too, exacerbated by Trump and the degree that identity politics has created a snake pit in his swamp. Women versus men, young versus old and left of center versus the hard-left liberals is more uncomfortable than the August humidity.
The litmus tests have become impossible to pass.
So I left despite keeping a D.C. office. I’m here to learn. I’m here to watch.
I’m here to work. I’m slowly not adding three hours every time I check the time. I’m grudgingly waiting for the walk sign.
I have one professional chapter left to write in life and the new drawings on the Etch-A-Sketch are of new friends and a place I believe in.
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Dane Strother, a partner in Strother Nuckels Strategies, now a Sacramento-based Democratic strategist and communications consultant. He wrote this commentary for CalMatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters.
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