The Campaign in Maine

Jim Burroway

October 25th, 2009

Matt-ForemanMatt Foreman writes:

As the campaign in Maine enters the home stretch, our skeevy opponents have unleashed yet another ad claiming that unless marriage equality is overturned, same-sex marriage will be “pushed” on elementary school children.

Our side has responded with calm, rebutting the attacks with facts, statements from authoritative figures, and appeals to higher values. Sadly, that approach has been condemned by well-respected figures in our community, including Andrew Sullivan, Mike Tidmus, the Box Turtle Bulletin and the Bay Area Reporter.

Condemned? Hardly. I think there’s a big difference between condemnation and constructive criticism. That said, I do remain concerned that Protect Marriage Equality is playing defense rather than controlling the parameters of debate. Stand for Marriage Maine’s Frank Schubert has made Question 1 not about marriage equality, but about education. We have the opportunity to turn the election about something else, and that’s fairness. Not just fairness for LGBT families, which I believe most voters really don’t have a vested interest in (like they do with education). But fairness in terms of the caliber of debate carried out by our opponents. Nobody likes to be duped, and that’s exactly what Stand for Marriage Maine is trying to do. That, and buy an election outright. Is that what Mainers really want?

I plan on returning to this topic more fully in a later post, hopefully tomorrow or Tuesday. On the positive side, let me repeat this: Protect Maine Equality is doing an amazing job with their grass-roots effort, perhaps the best I’ve seen yet. So read Matt’s piece and donate or volunteer today. Remember, the rule is still in effect: people who sit on the sidelines have no right to criticize.

Emily K

October 25th, 2009

People who sit on the sidelines have no right to criticize.

Wrong.

Specifically in America, but also among those who cherish human freedom, the right to free speech and for one to express their opinion says otherwise. Your declaration is akin to saying that since we didn’t donate to Yes on 1 we have no right to criticize their ads. Or that people who have never smoked a cigarette in their life have no right to criticize tobacco companies for being sneaky and under-handed in their ad campaigns (especially, before legislation put a damper on such campaigns).

If a campaign for Human Rights decided to take all their donation money and burn it publicly for effect to prove some kind of point, would we then have to give them our money to destroy in order to “earn” the right to criticize such a move? No we wouldn’t.

Burr

October 25th, 2009

Wow. Condemn is overkill. Nobody has a problem with those ads they just want to see more with another angle.

That said he is right to say that TV ads don’t matter as much as ground game. First they don’t really move that many people in and of themselves, second even if they did they don’t motivate people to go out and actually vote their conscience.

David C.

October 25th, 2009

Paying for and engineering critical opinion shifts are not things one takes lightly. It is easy for non-participants to criticize an effort to do something those non-participants do not themselves understand in detail.

Matt explains some things about our experience in California that do not in fact apply to Maine, and that the criticism to which he refers results from trying to see No on 1 through the lens of Prop 8. The number and character of the electorate in Maine differ substantially from those in California and a different strategy is required to actually achieve victory in Maine.

NOM and the Catholic Church and a few individual donors are employing what amounts to checkbook activism and assuming that victory will follow from expensive delivery of a shrill message. No on 1 has chosen a different strategy that more closely aligns with the profile of the voter the campaign needs to participate in the process, and has constructed its messaging and delivery to target that group: the “movables“. In effect, this is taking control of the debate and not playing the game our adversaries want to play.

Prop 8 did teach an important lesson which No on 1 is applying: to increase our chances of winning, we must reach out and make one-on-one contact with movable voters.

As much as it might make us feel better to make an in-kind response refuting everything NOM and the rest of the supporters of Yes on 1 are saying, it very easily may be that putting our energies elsewhere is what we should be doing and we need to trust and support Jesse Connolly and his team any way we can.

Dwight S.

October 26th, 2009

As someone who lives in Maine and who has been very active in volunteering for, and contributing to, the No on 1 campaign, I have to agree with Jim Burroway’s argument (his entire article is worth reading) and with David C’s commments above. The fact of the matter is that No on 1 has done an amazing job of building a grass-roots coalition across our state, and that is what is going to win this for us.

I also know for a fact that the TV ads have resonated here. My partner and I live in a small town (pop. 2600) and our neighbors went from being opposed to using the word “marriage” to voting No on 1 primarily because of the TV ads–ours and the opposition’s.

What frustrates me is how as a community we spend so much time quibbling amongst ourselves rather than building the leadership, organizations, and coalitions we need to win. (In the phone banks I have been helping to run, for example, our most consistent volunteers have overwhelmingly been middle-aged straight women.) The focus here from the outset has been on building the ground game that we need to win. It helps that Maine is like a big small town (you can walk right up to the governor at events), but when we are successful here next week we will learn again that the ground game is what really counts. Effective ads are a necessary but not sufficient element of success.

Dwight S.

October 26th, 2009

Correction to above: I meant to say that Matt Foreman’s article is worth reading in its entirety.

J. Stellon

October 26th, 2009

Jim:

I agree with you completely. Constructive criticism offered in good faith should always be welcome.

IMO, the big story of a possible epic gay fail is not in Maine (where even if we lose, we can take pride in an impressive effort), but in WA. In WA, they might actually lose even though they have a huge money advantage and an amateurish and resource-starved opposition. And they are not even fighting for marriage, but for “domestic partnership” rights which have been in VT and other states for a decade.

Cole

October 26th, 2009

Voting stations are open NOW! Gay people in Maine need to vote NO and vote NOW and bring their NO on 1 friends and family with them to the voting stations. Once you done that talk to Maine voters face to face and get the NO on 1 voters to the polls.

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