Sunday, May 15, 2011

Friends in Unexpected Places

I met Eric Blankenbaker while covering Governor Palin's Long Island Association speech this past February. He was helping the event organizer as a freelancer. Blankenbaker helped me find a space at the press box to set up my tripod and get a good angle toward Gov. Palin to capture her with my zoom lens. I had attended the speech both as the lowest tier paid guest, and as a media representative. Lori Calabrese and Jedediah Bila also covered the event onsite with me. Blankenbaker was one of very few people who helped ensure I was able to properly cover the story and who understood me as a supporter of Gov. Palin's. Here is where it gets better: the event organizers would tend to consist of fellow conservatives - maybe not Palinistas per se - but fellow conservatives nonetheless. Blankenbaker, I would later find out - is a Democrat.

The LIA event proved to be a rather expensive series of painful lessons learned for me. I'll never again forget the ISO setting on my camera to use at poorly lit indoor events, and I've learned just how far I can push an iPhone 4 with pre-recorded video. Even more importantly, I learned something about friends that day. Just because someone is of the same political stripe as you does not a friend make. I also reinforced my knowledge that some friends truly are guardian angels, especially one who lives over 1,000 miles from me. Since Gov. Palin spoke at LIA, many events have come and gone. She traveled to India and Israel, and delivered a rousing speech in Madison, WI, among many other venues.

Blankenbaker called me about three weeks ago and asked if I would be willing to participate in an interview for his Masters Degree project. At that time, he disclosed to me that he is a Democrat. He took a risk. I could have declined the interview on the spot. I set my ground rules - I would not be associated with anything derogatory to Gov. Palin. He agreed. So, on May 4, I met him at the New School. Located in Greenwich Village, the New School is about as liberal as you can get. I was also taking a risk. Sometimes, you have to take risks in life.

In this video - compiled by a Democrat - you'll see a collection of Tea Party members talking about all the various news sources they get their information from. While one supporter could not articulate her positions well, Blankenbaker provided fair and balanced coverage. In his coverage, he provided video footage which shows that Tina Fey, not Gov. Palin uttered the infamous "I can see Russia from my house" quote. I had referenced it in the interview and Blankenbaker backed it up with footage proving my point.



When Blankenbaker shared the video with me, he wrote:
I also want to thank you for sitting down with me. I learned a lot about the other side of the political sphere and it's always good to remember that no matter what vilifying pundits and Hollywood types try to do, we are all human beings. I think I really tried to humanize our subjects in the piece. One interesting piece of feedback from my classmates was that they were really impressed that we took on the subject matter. As you know, The New School is pretty liberal and one student said he came away realizing that people on the Right are just like him (emphasis mine).
In New York, many conservatives register Democrat so they can vote in a primary. An "R" after someone's name in New York does not necessarily translate to Reagan Conservative. Blindly assume a "D" after a person's name means "enemy" and you could lose minds, hearts, and votes. Human beings label and compartmentalize, based on stereotypes. These labels form the basis for assumptions. We do it for convenience and standardization. But, we need to be critical thinkers. We know what happens when we assume. The first three letters of "assume" should give a strong hint. It's something to consider when winning the hearts and minds of independents and Blue Dog Democrats in a possible Palin 2012 campaign.
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