Norman Lear responds

Yes, he's a progressive, says the famed TV producer -- but his campaign to turn out the youth vote is nonpartisan and open to conservatives and liberals alike.

By Salon Staff
Published December 9, 2003 9:00PM (EST)

[Read "Wish Upon a Star," by Damien Cave.]

I wish it wasn't necessary to spend so much time asking good journalists to resist the impulse to lump together all the entertainment-oriented get-out-the-vote efforts, and as decidedly one-sided -- that is to say, liberal. I fought in a war for the right of Janeane Garofalo to dissent from the policies of the current administration with every joke in her quiver, for the right of Dennis Miller to defend them with every amusing tool at his command -- and for each to work their hearts out to turn out the voters who agree with them.

But then there are efforts such as Declare Yourself, which is seeking to turn out the youth vote in a 100 percent nonpartisan way. Presidents Ford and Carter have been honorary co-chairs of this project since its inception two years ago. It began when my wife and I purchased an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, printed the night of July 4, 1776, and sent on horseback around the 13 colonies to be read aloud in public places. The DOI exhibit has been to 51 cities and the presidential libraries thus far of Presidents Reagan, Ford, Carter, Truman, Johnson and Bush.

While I am a known progressive, I operate as one of those progressives and conservatives who, while giving no ground on their individual political beliefs, seek also, by working together, to emphasize the values and principles that unite us as Americans, and that undergird the democratic republic we all cherish -- in this case the nonpartisan belief that 61 percent of eligible Americans failing to vote in the last election is an embarrassing and disgraceful figure. That is why Declare Yourself found the support of major American corporations and foundations ($27 million to this date) to which our nonpartisanship has been key and essential. And it explains, too, why we have been strongly supported by governors, mayors, secretaries of state, businesses, educators and civic leaders across the political spectrum and across the country.

And so I believe that it is neither fair nor correct for Salon and Damien Cave to blithely pass off our multitiered, nonpartisan Declare Yourself campaign as one among many of those "large-scale liberal entertainment tours."

-- Norman Lear

Salon Staff

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