July 5, 2011
By Adam Bink
Good morning, and welcome back from a long weekend. How was yours?
Over at BeyondChron.com (an SF alternative news publication), Jim Burroway has an interesting piece on things to remember for potential ballot campaigns in California and Maine next year. He writes:
Schubert understood that if voters didn’t care about marriage — which most of them personally don’t have a stake in – they could be made to care about something else. That something else in both California and Maine turned out to be education. And so California and in Maine, Schubert took an election about something nobody cares about (gays being allowed to marry) and made it about something that everyone cares about. Again, Karen [Ocamb] quotes Schubert with the a-ha moment:
What the research showed was that we could not win by simply affirming traditional marriage. People said, ‘Yeah, OK – but what’s the problem here. How does this impact me?’…. This forced acceptance [by the court] that gay marriage was now mandatory was a big deal – the consequences – specifically regarding religious freedom, religious expression and teaching of gay marriage in schools – and the education consequences become the most powerful in the course of the campaign.
We bet the campaign on consequences – especially on education. Education from the beginning – while it was one of three consequences – it was the one that was the most emotionally charged and the most powerful. And I remember testing an ad in focus groups in Southern California….[One ad was} with the Wirthlin couple from Massachusetts. She’s telling the story of her son Joey - about he’s being taught how a prince can marry another prince – and he’s in second grade.
There's an African American gentleman in this group watching the ad [who] just shakes his head. So I [told the researcher to] ask him what he meant. And the guy says, ‘I’ll tell you what, if that happened to me – I would be pissed.’
And that was the moment that we decided that the campaign would rely on education.
And so our opponents found an issue that would spark an emotional reaction that makes voters care enough to vote no… or vote at all.
It got me thinking about what our “moment” or issue would be. Jim points to one — Arizona’s Prop 107 concerning marriage and civil unions in 2006, the only one concerning marriage that failed, because LGBT proponents pointed out that the domestic partnership provision would affect straight people (e.g., two sisters living together). A narrower version concerning marriage later passed, but the point is that our side was successfully able to argue that the initiative went too far and voters became concerned that they would be affected.
Other “moments” I see:
1. Jobs. One of the more compelling arguments I’ve used, anecdotally, in New York State has been how many jobs would be created by legalizing same-sex marriage, especially in economically depressed areas like Western New York. People nod their heads. It may not be the most pure argument, but it works.
2. Someone you know. The same goes for mentioning how one’s niece, or son, can’t do this or that without equal access to marriage, even with the most bona fide civil union law in the country. This, of course, tends towards personal stories about how under a civil union law, the legal partner was still denied access to his loved one in the hospital, resulting in a potentially life-threatening situation. Then, it becomes personal for the voter.
What do you find compelling?