Tag Archives: Yes on 8

Proposition 8 Aftermath – Here’s How The No-On-8 Campaign Lost the Election

As far as we can tell, it’s not so much that the “Yes-On-8” campaign won, but the “No-On-8” campaign lost. They lost because they confused swing voters with their inconsistent message, spent all their money on TV ads rather than street-level organizing (“ground game”) and instead of trying to win an election they went into “activist” mode and declared war on religion.

The Message Problem

President-Elect Obama’s campaign message was simple, memorable, and completely effective, because it was completely true: “John McCain voted with George W. Bush over 90% of the time.  John McCain is four more years of George W. Bush.”

The No-On-8 campaign had three messages: 1) Prop 8 strips people of civil rights that were already granted to them, 2) Gays and lesbians deserve equal rights, 3) Same Sex marriage will not be taught in schools.

Message #2 is far too divisive and played into the Yes-On-8s assertion that same-sex marriage was part of a “vast gay conspiracy.”  Message #3 was a defensive move on an issue that turned out to be a red herring (turns out only 23% of voters were worried about the effect same sex marriage would have on education).

This means that the winning message, not only by elimination but because it was the best message, is #1 – the civil rights argument.   It should have been the only message, especially since it requires a bit more explaining than most broad, talking-point-ready campaign themes.

To effectively push the civil rights argument, the opposition campaign needed to explain to voters that there’s a difference between approving of gay marriage and stripping someone of their civil rights that have already been upheld by the state.  No-On-8 made this argument well at first.  The first TV ads, funded by the official No-On-8 campaign employed this strategy.

The problem was that those ads were running against ads put by a group called “Equality California”, which had the same top-level leadership as “No-On-8” but employed different strategists (which still makes no sense to us, can someone explain the thinking behind this?).  Equality California also had a different message. Their ads did away with the civil rights argument in favor of a “gay and lesbian rights” argument.  This confused matters.  

There were now two messages out there:  One that said that No-On-8 is not about same-sex marriage but about civil rights, the other said that No-On-8 is about same-sex marriage in that gays and lesbians deserved equality in marriage.   This was the beginning of the end.

The wheels really fell off when the Yes-On-8ers started their “same sex marriage taught in schools” campaign; this lead to the No-On-8 campaign running counter-ads and counter-PR on the education issue.  But the Equality California group was still talking about “gay and lesbian equal rights for marriage” and running those ads.

Now there were three messages: 1)” No-On-8 is not about gay marriage, it’s about protecting a minority groups’ civil rights.”  2) “No-on-8 is about gay marriage, because it’s about equality for same-sex couples.”  3) “Don’t worry, we won’t teach your kids about same-sex marriage in schools.”

This problem was compounded by Barack Obama’s gift to the Yes-On-8 campaign:  His repeated statements that he believes that “marriage is between a man and a woman.”  With his opposition to same-sex marriage bans excised from his statements, the message to voters, especially to African-Americans got even more muddled (as we discussed in a recent post about a Yes-On-8  Obama mailer targeted to African-Americans).

Why weren’t the No-On-8 campaign and Equality California working together to send out a unified message?  Somebody needed to bring these groups together and get them in line with one consistent theme. When the Yes-On-8 started their “education argument”, both coalitions should have worked together to put an internal poll in the field and figure out whether the argument was getting any traction.  Perhaps they would have found out much sooner than the Friday before the election that nobody really cared.

So where was the leadership?  Or as we like to ask around here lately, where was the California Democratic Party?

The CalDem Problem

As with Prop. 5, the California Democratic Party did not have their act together on Prop. 8. But with Prop. 8 their inconsistencies were a bit more understandable. The CalDems endorsed a “No” vote, and some surrogates like Mayor Villaraigosa, Mayor Newsom (who probably hurt more than helped), and Sen. Di-Fi spoke out against Prop. 8.  The problem was that all three said that Prop. 8 was about gay marriage and about civil rights.

Then there was the problem of bad timing.  The CalDems had much bigger fish to fry this election than Prop. 8.  The CalDems main priority was registering African-American and Latino voters and making sure they showed up to vote for President-Elect Obama.

It doesn’t take a sociologist to know that the African-American and Latino communities are pre-disposed to vote “Yes” on Prop. 8 (which, indeed, they did – 70% of African-American voters and 53% of Latinos voted “Yes”).   Perhaps the CalDems, understandably,  didn’t want to risk alienating  African-American and Latino voters by aggressively pushing the No-On-8 message.

Unfortunately for both No-On-8 Campaign and Equality California, they were left to their own devices without much support from the state party infrastructure.

Working With Rather Than Against Religion

From the beginning, those on the fringes of the No-on-8 campaign wanted to use the issue as an attack on religions that preached a “Yes-On-8” message.   We can’t tell you how many times we personally saw and how many other tales we heard about people standing outside of churches with No-On-8 signs. If you live in one of the state’s bigger cities, you probably saw this yourself.

Who at the No-On-8 campaign let people get away with this?  This is an election, not a political protest.  This sort of nonsense makes “soft yes” voters dig their heels in harder and completely turned off swing voters. Then there was the problem with the  No-On-8s campaigns war against the Mormons in the final weeks of the campaign.

These are only two examples of No-On-8s perceived “war against religion” in the final weeks of the campaign.  This whole strategy was mind-blowing to us.  Why wasn’t the first strategy of the opposition campaign to work with religious leaders at the community, local and national level who were already No-On-8.  This should have been a centerpiece of the campaign rather than the afterthought that it felt like.

Why not mobilize sympathetic church members to work within their own communities to work the civil rights issue and help get out the vote?  Harassing parishioners leaving Mass or smearing the entire LDS church makes it impossible for No-On-8 church members to work with the campaign, and in fact it may be enough to change some “No” votes to “Yes.”

The”Soft Yes” Problem and Lack of Ground Troops

The failure of the No-On-8 campaign to work with religious groups speaks to a larger problem, their complete lack of “ground game” (geez, we’re sick of that term! Hopefully that’s the last time we’ll use it for awhile!!).  The No-On-8 campaign failed to identify pockets of “Soft Yes” voters. San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, as well as many counties in the San Joaquin Valley and Central California all overwhelmingly both for Obama and for Prop. 8.  If there was a real ground effort in place and truly organized at the community level, Obama voters who were “Soft Yes” on 8 could have been identified and reached.

Anyway, it’s all over now.   The lawsuits have already started flying, which I’m sure we’ll talk about at some point.  Otherwise, the No-On-8ers can try to get it right in a couple of years.

How to Stop “Yes on 8” Banner Ads on your Blog

The anti-gay bigots at “Yes on 8” (California’s initiative to eliminate marriage rights) have spent a ton of money on Google ads — and are targeting blogs and computers based out of California.  Progressive blogs who abhor Prop 8 have found “Yes on 8” ads pop up on their front page, because they have Google banner ads.  This has led many websites who use Google Ad Sense to get grief from their readers for supporting a homophobic agenda … even though they knew nothing about promoting “Yes on 8” ads.

Fortunately, there’s a way for blogs who use Google Ad Sense to filter out “Yes on 8.”  Here’s how …

(1) Login to your AdSense account.

(2) Click on ‘AdSense Setup’ tab.

(3) Click on ‘Competitive Ad Filter’ sub-tab.

(4) Enter url in this form: ‘www.protectmarriage.com’ in the box provided under ‘AdSense for Content Filters’

(5) Click on ‘Save Changes’

It may take a few hours for AdSense to start blocking the ads, but it works.

The “Yes on 8” campaign has spent a ton of money to get out their message, and I’m afraid it’s working.  Don’t let your website or blog become an unwillingly complicit in this effort.

Updated Yes on 8 Plans and Personnel

Jennifer Kerns has stepped down from the Yes on 8 effort in order to devote more time to her blog.

Please note contact details for the campaign’s new spokeswoman below:

Sonja Eddings Brown

Deputy Communications Director

Protect Marriage

Tel:  818-723-9446

Mobile: 916-446-2956

Email:  [email protected]

Sonja’s husband, Lowell Brown, is also involved in the campaign as an Area Director in charge of organizing the LDS (Mormon) Yes on 8 ground game.  

Sonja Eddings Brown and Lowell Brown
The Yes on 8 campaign’s Mormon Power Couple

To their credit, no matter how busy they might be in their professional lives or with the Yes on 8 campaign, they both still manage to find time to blog.

Lowell is the chief spiny mammal over at The Hedgehog Blog, and Sonja is a regular contributor over at the Article VI Blog.

In fact, it was Sonja’s interview of Cecil “Chip” Murray (posted over at Article VI) that first got me interested in learning more about Dr. Murray:

A6 (Sonja Eddings Brown): As a respected long-time member of the Christian ministry, how do you feel we are doing as a country when it comes to the actual separation of Church and State?

Reverend Murray: I think the separation of Church and State is a basic policy that we simply must follow. Not to follow that separation, that line in the sand separating church and state is to flirt with danger. Now of course when you separate church and state that doesn’t mean that you weed religion out of those who are in politics, not that you weed politics out of those in religion, but you can’t customize it, you can’t structure it, so that you have the bully pulpit dictating to Congress. You can’t give God a stick and you be God’s agent and you are whipping people into line in your religious context.

You have your religion, your religion is personal. And even though religion is personal but never private, it cannot be public to the extent that it’s “my way or the highway.”

It isn’t American and it isn’t sensible to make the bully pulpit the bully. The bully pulpit at best deals with conscience and conscientiousness. Not consensus and not control. People have the right to believe as they believe. The Pure Charity Trust says that 87% of Americans believe in God but now when we look at how these Americans look at God, you have the Abrahamic faiths. Judaism, Christianity and Islam. You have the faith that comes out of the Mormon Church, you have Bhuddist and Daoist. These people have the right to their individual beliefs, but no one has the right to a collective belief that sweeps and demands and says you believe as we believeor you get hurt.

Sadly, I’ve not been able to find the video for the above portion of Sonja’s interview.

However, I did manage to find the contact info for all the folks running the ground game for Lowell.

Once I’d compiled that information, I fired off the following email to the entire group of Yes on 8 volunteers under Lowell’s command:

Subject: Please avoid using falsehoods to achieve a political victory

Some of you may have already enjoyed the opportunity to read the attached commentary from a BYU law professor.

For those who have not, I sincerely ask that you please take a few minutes to read and consider his remarks.

For those who’ve already read the attached, perhaps you could spare another moment to read this recent editorial from the Contra Costa Times (09/30/2008):  

“ADVOCATES OF Proposition 8 claim it is simply a marriage protection measure that does not discriminate against gays. They argue that it would not diminish domestic partner rights but only reinstate a statutory initiative passed by 61 percent of the voters in 2000.

However, that is hardly the case. Prop. 8 is a constitutional amendment that would reverse a decision earlier this year by the California Supreme Court. Prop. 8, like the 2000 measure, states that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

That is a clear discrimination against homosexuals. Domestic partnerships and marriage aren’t the same. If they were, there would be no issue and no motivation for promoting a constitutional amendment that actually delineates the difference.

Only marriage guarantees the certainty that couples count on in times of greatest need such as in making life-and-death decisions, with no questions asked. Marriage also confers a special social status upon couples that legal partnerships do not.

To its credit, the state’s highest court understood that there is a real difference between a domestic partnership and a marriage. That is why it ruled that to deny one group of people the right to marry is discriminatory and thus a violation of the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.

The court did not create a new right for anyone. Instead it logically expanded the scope of a basic right to accommodate the social changes regarding homosexual relations.

Few Californians, including supporters of Prop. 8, would seek to outlaw gay partnerships or keep gays from teaching or charge them with a crime. Yet in the not so distant past, such discrimination was the norm in much of the nation.

Fortunately, there has been considerable progress over the past few decades in eliminating bias against sexual orientation. Removing the ban on marriage was an important step in that direction.

Prop. 8 would negate that progress, perhaps for many years, by adopting a needless exception to the basic constitutionally protected right of equal protection under the law.

Regardless of how one feels about homosexual relationships or one’s personal religious views, it would be a grave mistake to pass an initiative that reduces liberty by returning gay couples to second-class status.

We strongly urge voters to carefully consider the harm Prop. 8 would do not just to gays, but to all Californians, and reject the initiative.”


Attachment: A Commentary on the Document “Six Consequences . . . if Proposition 8 Fails” (PDF)

Here is a sampling of the responses that came back from these Yes on 8 volunteers:

Please don’t send me any more emails.  Thank you.

Let’s be honest, opponents of Prop 8 want one thing….to force religion to change and accept gay marriage or to shut them down.

I don’t know where you obtained my email address but would greatly appreciate it if you would NOT contact me ever again!

I don’t care what your political values are! You don’t need to share them with me! I could care less what your thoughts are and it is very presumptuous of you to think I care anything about what you think!!!!



And from Lowell Brown himself:

Please stop.  Thank you.

To the Yes on 8 activist who was upset that I’d obtained her email address, I would like to point out that your contact info was made public by someone on your own team:  here, here, and here.

All I’ve done is to compile it all here.

And in response to Lowell Brown’s request to “please stop” … the best I can muster is a clip from the greatest sci-fi flick ever made:

And just in case this reference might be too arcane for the Yes on 8 crowd, what I’m suggesting here is that we No on 8 folks are the guy holding the screwdriver … not because we want to be holding that screwdriver, but because there’s obviously been a serious system malfunction once a machine that we built has arrived at the conclusion that the mission objective takes precedence over any one of our lives.

In terms of the present malfunction (i.e., the lopsided support for Prop 8 among California Mormons), this comment over at Mormonsfor8.com struck me as a useful insight for those of us interested in evaluating this latest version of the LDS anti-gay program:    

When Knights of Columbus or Focus On The Family makes a large

donation, one recognizes these names and one knows immediately what

they stand for. Ten years ago, the LDS Church suffered some bad

publicity when they gave 500K (out of 600K raised total) to an Alaskan

effort to pass a same sex marriage ban.

That’s right, an out of state church organization gave 83% of the

funds to promote a ballot measure in Alaska. While legal, the donation

gave many the impression that an out of state religious entity was

trying to manipulate an election in Alaska.

Having learned this lesson in Alaska, in 2002 the LDS Church asked

members to donate individually. The result was that few people

realized the extent of LDS Church involvement in arm twisting those

donations out of the members.

Since most of the LDS donors are not celebrities, few people outside

their stake would realize the extent of the church’s involvement. As a

California voter, I reserve the right to know the source of all

funding for state ballot measures and candidates. And when ten million

dollars comes from one particular source, yes the voters have a right

to know before they choose.

For some reason, this comment seems important.  That said, I’m admittedly interested in understanding the extent to which Mormon efforts to pass Prop 8 are tactically distinct from those of other groups in the Yes on 8 coalition.  To the extent that I’m probably one of only half a dozen folks on the planet who could give a damn about fleshing out such a point, I’ll leave it at that for now.

So, moving on to the data dump, here’s what the Mormons have planned for The Golden State:

. . . Org Chart . . .

. . . Job Descriptions . . .

Phoners . . .

Walkers . . .

Schedulers . . .

Emailers . . .

Networkers . . .

Monitors . . .

Registrars . . .

Distributors . . .

. . . Timeline . . .

. . . Step 1 . . .

. . . Step 2 . . .

. . . Step 3 . . .

. . . Talking Points . . .

Sorry about all the scrolling involved in reading this diary.  It was supposed to be all about Sonja Eddings Brown, the new (Mormon) spokeswoman for Yes on 8, and I probably could’ve done a better job maintaining the focus on her and her new role in the campaign.

That said, where I have managed to discuss Sonja’s new role in the campaign, I hope the commentary has not given the impression that I have any desire to demonize her personally.  Depending on the issue, she’s proven herself capable of delivering the kind of cogent analysis that would otherwise make me a fan, e.g., in Sonja’s own words:

Several dozen judges have now reviewed the Schiavo case and have ruled in favor of the rights of her husband as principal guardian. Whether we side with her husband or not, we must not fail to recognize his rights and more importantly his responsibilities under the law. In the future, the government should act to spare families, friends, medical professionals and other caregivers from vague customary practices and place the responsibility for life or death decisions on the individual and his or her trusted representative.

Amen, Sonja.  We’re all born into families of one sort or another, but we all choose our trusted representatives, and that’s a choice that we both agree needs to be respected.

And now, just for fun, a few bars from my favorite Sonja Eddings Brown tune to accompany this link to my favorite Sonja Eddings Brown story:

And I’m so glad to have found this story from a Granada Hills Charter High School graduate.

P.S. If you do decide to contact the Zip Code Supervisors whose email addresses I’ve posted online here, please do make an effort to be civil.  All we need to bring is the truth, let them worry about bringing the hate.  OK?  

Milk.  Screenplay by fellow Mormon Dustin Lance Black:

No matter how hard you try.

Chino Blanco