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  • « The Mormons and us on Prop 8 | Main | Protesting far from Prop 8 »

    November 15, 2008

    Mo' money to hide gays = equality?

    Posted by: Chris

    Smithsteve That's essentially the message from one of the brilliant strategists who decided the way to beat back a discriminatory ban on gay marriage was to never mention "discrimination," "marriage," or "gay."

    The excuses offered by Steve Smith, a (heterosexual) principal in the Dewey Square consulting firm that managed the "No on 8" campaign, are maddeningly illogical and unconvincing:

    • He blamed money woes, even though he had $2 million more at his disposal than "Yes on 8" did.
    • He complained about being "under-resourced" while acknowledging "we ended up spending very nearly $40 million dollars, more than anybody had ever spent on this kind of race."
    • He was clueless about the tech-savvy grassroots that energized the Obama campaign and the Stonewall 2.0 protests, admitting the No on 8 website was "pathetic" until volunteers from Google fixed it. The result: In the months prior, No on 8 raised "only about $1 million in Internet contributions"; after the site fix, "we raised approximately $22 million" from the Net in just 6 weeks.
    • Despite the fact that turnout in San Francisco was under 50%, Smith concluded, "We lost because we missed seven or eight points in L.A."
    • He joined the chorus of finger-waggers warning protesters not to blame the Mormon Church, even as the N.Y. Times confirms, "Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage."
    • He admitted "No on 8" failed to define the issue, but disagreed with criticism that avoiding terms like "marriage," "discrimination" and "gay" might have something to do with that.
    • He lamented that "Yes on 8" successfully defined the issue, even as he dismissed early pro-Prop 8 ads as "real screamers" that "actually didn't say almost anything at all" and "the other side won by bullshitting."

    Let us hope that if nothing else comes out the National Day of Protest in response to losing three more marriage ballot measures, we can move beyond the focus-group driven, over-strategized leadership that thinks somehow we can wink-nod clever our way into full equality.



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    1. mademark on Nov 15, 2008 3:50:39 PM:

      I donated three times to No on 8. Since our defeat I have heard nothing from them. They essentially shut down, and I would like my money back.

      I remain furious that our struggle was presented as a whine for ‘fairness’ instead of an insistence on justice. The marchers in Selma did not ask for fairness, they demanded justice. They did not hide themselves from view, fearful that indignant Black faces would lose their battle for them. Yet we were hidden, our love was hidden, our children were hidden, as if we had something to be ashamed of, and as if our opponents should not be confronted with the truth of their bigotry. They were taking away our rights! They should have been told that, and then let the cards fall where they may, let the stain be on their consciences as well as their constitution.

      HRC is impotent and irrelevant. Steve Smith and Joe Solmonese need to get out of the way. I praise the young ones up in arms who will take their future into their own hands and not wait for the sorry likes of the absurdly named Human Rights Campaign to get them a crumb or two from the table. The time for silence and acquiescence is over. MLK, in his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ said he had been advised to wait, but would not and could not. The time is now.

    1. DaveO on Nov 15, 2008 4:03:27 PM:

      Turnout in San Francisco is above 77% (and still counting). That "under 50%" figure is wrong, and the fact that absentee ballots (of which there were a TON) were not counted to any extent on election day. Please correct.


    1. Strict Scrutiny on Nov 15, 2008 7:21:34 PM:

      You nailed it again Chris.

      I commented in an earlier post that I attended a meeting here in Sacramento where Smith gave a talk on why the No on 8 campaign failed -- indeed, he mentioned all of the maddeningly illogical points you noted above. He mentioned a couple more in the meeting I attended:

      1. He advised the No campaign to essentially write off the black vote because funds would be too limited to engage that community.

      2. He grossly underestimated the war chest the YES campaign would be able to raise. He felt YES would raise around $15 million, and got panicky when he figured out that it had raised substantially more than that.

      The worst thing, though, was his smug defense of the NO campaign's strategy and tactics. Even after we lost, he still insisted that his "hide the gays" strategy was the right one. He also insisted that the his decision not to use strident language like "discrimination" and "gay" was the right one, because, of course, the focus groups told him those words put people off.

      Oh, yeah, and one thing he forgot to mention? That he got SACKED as head strategist about 2-3 weeks before the election because the NO campaign executive committee figured out their campaign was a disaster.

      Chris is right -- we need new leadership. Smith, Kors, Kendall, and whoever else ran this joke of a campaign need to step down and let someone else take the helm.

    1. Hawyer on Nov 17, 2008 12:24:12 PM:

      Well I read the BAR article and came away evermore confused:

      1. Who hired Dewey Square Group? - I.E. who was the client? Stonewall Dems?

      2. Who vetted this bozo Steve Smith as the acct exec on this project?

      3. Who approved the creative content of the ads?

      4. Who allocated the $40 million budget? (Now we know that the Mormons only spent ~ $37 million.)

      5. It wasn't at all clear if HRC had any input.


    1. Scott on Nov 18, 2008 5:23:34 AM:

      Back in early September when I saw a talk online about the NO on 8 campaign I knew we had problems because a heterosexual male was running the campaign. In every study conducted on anti-gay prejudice it has been shown heterosexaul males have at least a moderate level of prejudice against gay people. It should be of no surprise than that Steve Smith undermined the campaign.

    1. Strict Scrutiny on Nov 18, 2008 10:23:40 AM:

      In every study conducted on anti-gay prejudice it has been shown heterosexaul males have at least a moderate level of prejudice against gay people.

      So you know, Smith's brother is gay, and he is very sympathetic to our issues.

      Personally, I think he screwed up by relying too heavily on focus group data, which told him that showing gay couples in TV ads turned people off.

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