There is a big controversy brewing. It has been discovered that a letter from Obama during the No On 8 campaign was not effectively used to counter our opponents. It was sent to the Alice B. Toklas group, a Democratic club in San Francisco.
It seems there was an idiotic concern that no one would know who this club was. There was also some misplaced hesitation because people did not want to hurt Obama's chances of winning. This strategic disaster was unfortunate, because the opposition flogged the fact (See Above) that Obama was against same-sex marriage. Here is an excerpt from the Obama letter:
"As the Democratic nominee for President, I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law. That is why I support extending fully equal rights and benefits to same sex couples under both state and federal law... And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states...Finally, I want to congratulate all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks."
To begin with, Obama's letter should have been placed in a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times. His statement should have been repeated endlessly. It was clearly a mistake not to do so.
The fact that there was a big debate over this is also disturbing. Sometimes things are not very complicated. Chemistry and trigonometry are complicated. Deciding to use Obama's letter in a significant and robust way was not.
And this point about the letter being to Toklas - which people would not get? Um, please. Who cares if he wrote the letter to the Smurfs? It was still a hot commodity that should have been leveraged. This was a no brainer.
I know there are many people who worked really hard on this campaign and they deserve our deep gratitude and respect. They put their lives on hold and had many sleepless nights to win this battle. And, we should always place these things in the context of the swirl of a campaign - much like the fog of war.
But, this does seem like a missed opportunity.
Finally, there are some who think that activists outside the No On 8 campaign should have promoted this letter. I think it is wrong to assign blame to other advocates. Personally, I did not want to do anything to mess up the Prop 8 campaign. (I also did not know about this letter). They had a huge operation and I did not want to jeopardize it, get in the way - nor be blamed - for undermining their message and our chances in California. So, I stepped aside and focused on the things that Truth Wins Out does.
I think many others felt the same way and said, "let the campaign handle the campaign." So, to say that we are now responsible for not sending out campaign messages is a little unfair. What if each one of us had set up mini-Prop 8 message machines? Would that not have led to chaos?
Let's admit mistakes. Learn from them. Move on, and win next time. The Prop. 8 battle, the post-analysis, the protests and the court case have strengthened our community. It is like each one of us has gone through a graduate school course in campaigns and activism. We are better than ever - and will grow stronger by learning from our tactical blunders - not promoting Obama's letter being chief among them.
(Perhaps someone who was high up in the No On 8 campaign has a different take and can shed some light on this issue?)
I have changed my mind on this. The ruling from the CA Supreme Court will appropriately affirm the right of the people to pass a disgusting and ignorant amendment, which is a right they do have (as do we). Much like the American Supreme Court could not invalidate a national Constitutional Amendment had it passed under George W. Bush (and thank goodness it didn't), the CA Supreme Court cannot overturn this. The proper venue will be the ballot box in 2010 or 2012. I hope that we will win big. Afterwards, I would like to see the CA legislature tighten the rules for ballot measures. It has obviously gotten out of hand. Prop. 8 supporters are deeply, deeply misguided human beings. Shame on them.
posted by Chris L., at
3/07/2009 12:00 PM
I'm glad the No on 8 campaign finally had this open meeting, even though personally I was unable to attend. They have spent the intervening 4 months since the vote deflecting, insulating, hiding the leadership, and pointing fingers at those that wanted to have this discussion and claiming that we were part of the problem. That said, they were clearly more defensive than they should have been, even still.
posted by Dr. Matthew, at
3/07/2009 1:22 PM
But lets not forget. Obama stated repeatedly that he is for civil unions only at the federal level, not marriage for same-sex couples. So in a way, the poster was correct in saying he was for traditional marriage, but I agree the letter should have been used during the Prop. H8 campaign.
I think Prop. H8 will remain unchanged and expect that the 18,000 plus marriage will remain in tact, hopefully.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
3/07/2009 2:04 PM
When people talk about ‘traditional marriage’, I want to ask them how much the last bride they knew was *sold for*. If not, a herd of sheep or goats, maybe a camel or two. We still hear today of cases in India where the bride to be was killed by the groom’s family because she had too few rupees in her dowry. The upper crust of Europe and much of the US has and often still does make sure that their children marry into families of ‘substance’. These sanctified unions aren’t much more than glorified financial transactions.
posted by gary, at
3/07/2009 3:23 PM
it's also interesting that after the election a tape recording was found of an interview with Obama and the Windy City Times in Chicago when he was running for state office where he indicated support using the word "marriage" in the interview. that didn't get much press even after the fact either...
posted by mike/, at
3/07/2009 4:24 PM
Gary, that always gets me, too! "Traditional marriage." They don't know a thing about it. Polygamy was the order of the day in the Hebrew Scriptures, for example. You know, the Bible they claim to base their lives upon? True conservatives are very rare these days. The religious right hijacked a decent movement; there is nothing "conservative" about it anymore.
Those types depend upon profound and abject ignorance in order to survive. As of late, it seems this country is becoming somewhat more enlightened, and I am hopeful. But some things never change: the Republicans are now asking for a "spending freeze" in the middle of a deep recession. Do you believe this sh*t?
Yes, Robert, I agree. Prop. 8 will stand (and the pre-Prop. 8 marriages declared still valid) but we're going to kick their a** in 2010 or 2012, and then the people will have spoken, too. I don't think the haters could come back and get it on the ballot again; the hate movement will fizzle out like it did in Massachusetts.
posted by Chris L., at
3/07/2009 5:09 PM
Viewing things during the campaign from outside of CA, Obama's statements looked very contradictory, but it seemed No on 8 did a very poor job exploiting the things he did say that were supportive. Statements from our leadership during and even after the vote continued to indicate a "we-know-best" kind of paternalism, with scant admission of error. As a result, I haven't donated anything to them since, and I feel even less like doing so having now seen this latest Obama letter. However, if there were another vote in the offing, I'm sure I would reconsider. Most of all it gives me great chagrin to think that our leadership was outflanked by a group of such disgusting bigots.
posted by Cacau, at
3/07/2009 10:16 PM
Chris, like I said before, come 2010 and 2012, the Dems better not take our votes for granted, I've had enough of that. If they can't deliver, then bye-bye back to the Greens I go. Have you noticed that even in NYS, they're now saying the legislature doesn't have enough votes to pass marriage equality legislation. Every year, they come up with another excuse. It about time we put them on notice that delay tactics won't cut it any more no matter what the political climate is.
Gary.....what I also find very hypocritical about "traditional" marriage is that wearing a white dress signifies purity and virginity. Now, how many "brides" are virgins on their wedding day in this day and age? The majority of people who marry in church don't even attend religious services either, especially among episcopalians and other non-catholic cults. I'm all for allowing the religious cults and sects to ban religious marriages for those who don't adhere to their cultist belief systems. Exactly what is the point anyway if you're not going to worship regularly? I think we'd see a vast positive change in the public attitude towards same-sex civil marriage if that were the case. We are all aware of course that religion is at the root of the negativity towards marriage equality.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
3/08/2009 10:14 AM