I’ve been watching the circular firing squad begin to form in the blogs and, frankly, I’m rather disappointed.
The simple fact is that the people who are at fault are the 52% of California voters who voted for irrational and baseless discrimination. That’s where fault lies, and any claims that anyone else is to “blame” is the equivalent of the 1960s police detective telling an abused spouse to go home and talk it out.
I’ll preface it by saying this – I’m one of those people who are apparently at fault for Proposition 8 failing. I stayed up late last night in my friend’s apartment in Arlington, VA, after hearing the car horns along Clarendon and Wilson Boulevards celebrating the election of Barack Obama and getting second-hand reports of impromptu gatherings on U Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in the District, waiting for a glimmer of hope that Prop 8 would flip over. It didn’t, and that made this morning’s flight back to Los Angeles rather bittersweet.
I stand by the decision to go to Virginia. This election was historic.
No fight comes without its setback, and this one is a large one. We now need to re-group and identify both a tactic to overturn Prop. 8 as well as an underlying tactic to either get rid of or severely curtail this absurd system of propositions.
Here are some of the problems that I saw with the last year, with the above caveat in mind that the only people who are at fault for this are the people who voted for Proposition 8.
1) The No on 8 campaign. It was the worst campaign I’d ever seen, short of Diane Wilkerson’s State Senate campaigns in Massachusetts. I attempted to volunteer by phonebanking, but received a condescending e-mail, sent weeks if not months after I had requested to volunteer, that explained the unnecessarily complex training process that appeared to conclude that anyone who phonebanked for the No on 8 campaign was plainly an idiot and needed hand-holding. I hoped to volunteer through an office instead, but the offices were all too far away from where I live in LA (I can’t drive) and they kept obscene hours. I finally reluctantly gave up, and because of the fact that the economy has kept me from obtaining a full-time position, have donated a total of $30 this election cycle. So, bluntly, despite the fact that the No on 8 campaign was so important to me, I found myself locked out of it. I wish 8 had failed, but I stand by my choices of how I allocated my time – it became plainly clear that any time spent on the No on 8 campaign would just be spinning a hamster wheel.
2) Not only did the No on 8 campaign not allow individual Californians to get involved in any meaningful fashion, but they ran, as I said above, an astonishingly bad campaign. They were unable to get in front of any attacks, the TV ads were sparse and ineffective (whatever happened to the Let California Ring campaign of last year? Those ads were plainly effective). No on 8 allowed the Mormon Church to come in and buy a California law, and their opposition to this was paltry at best.
3) Gavin Newsom’s inflammatory remarks didn’t make the job easier. They just weren’t helpful. There’s no better way to put it. The first time I saw them in an ad I was shocked and appalled that he had said something so inflammatory and unnecessary – you don’t win supporters by saying that their laws (however wrong the laws are) are overturned “whether you like it or not” in that tone. He’s a politician, he should’ve known right where it would’ve ended up. He’s not exactly going to find himself as an example of how to win friends and influence people, and immediately after seeing that ad, said “If 8 passes, Newsom will be blamed.”
4) Very few politicians wanted to get in front of this issue. People try to be angry at Obama for the fact that, at one point, Obama said that marriage should be between a man and a woman. But he also came out in clear opposition to Prop 8 and his statements on equal marriage sure look mighty close to supporting equal marriage, much closer than Bill Clinton ever did. Obama had his own job to do, and by ushering in a progressive Presidency and Congress, our job in California gets a whole hell of a lot easier. The fact that he won Virginia last night and will probably win North Carolina shows how a Democratic progressive candidate can win a mandate. He now has the ability to translate that mandate into true progress. Don’t blame Obama, and don’t blame his supporters. But where was Mayor Villaraigosa? Where was Arnold and his alleged opposition? Where were all of the California leaders who ostensibly opposed 8?
I will say this: we now have an opportunity to turn this lemon into lemonade:
1) We could re-focus our efforts to identify a way that we could pass a law, through the Legislature or the defective proposition system, to “re-legalize” equal marriage. This would show that it can, in fact, be done, and may trigger a tidal wave of similar laws.
2) We could instead re-focus our efforts to demolishing this outrageous proposition system, whereby we can take away civil rights with fewer votes than which we can tax ourselves. Our proposition system has long made California into a laughingstock, and it’s time to outright abolish it. We elect legislators to legislate, and propositions should be inherently difficult to pass; our current system allows the Legislature to pass on the tough issues and promotes gridlock and corruption in Sacramento.