DUMBASSES — Over the the weekend, San Francisco finally had its open town-hall forum where gays and lesbians had an opportunity to ask leaders of the No on 8 campaign what went wrong. The event, which blogger Michael Petrelis had been demanding for months, comes nearly five months after Proposition 8 passed by a narrow (and winnable) margin of voters and after a series of town halls, conference calls and meetings with No on 8 leaders that have gone from blaming the opposition, to defiant justification of tactics, to admission of failure and in the case of one gay rights leader, the decision to never work on a marriage campaign again. The big story is, however, is that even after all this time, we’re still finding out new ways the No on 8 campaign screwed up big time. Take for instance, the story of the No on 8 campaign and the open-letter from Barack Obama that clearly pointed out his support of gay rights that they never used.
You may remember that during the campaign, Barack Obama’s position was muddled enough that the Yes on 8 campaign printed fliers with his image pointing out that he opposed gay marriage. Which is why the nominee wrote an open letter to the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club where he clearly stood up against Prop. 8, saying:
“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.
For too long. issues of LGBT rights have been exploited by those seeking to divide us. It’s time to move beyond polarization and live up to our founding promise of equality by treating all our citizens with dignity and respect. This is no less than a core issue about who we are as Democrats and as Americans.
I want to congratulate all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks.”
What did the No on 8 campaign do with this letter? Nothing.
At the forum, hired campaign strategist Steve Smith admitted it was a boneheaded move (emphasis ours):
Smith also acknowledged that the campaign should have used then-presidential candidate Barack Obama’s stated opposition to Prop 8. Instead, little use was made of Obama’s opposition in a letter last June to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, and right before Election Day the Yes on 8 campaign sent out a mailer featuring Obama’s image and quotes that he is opposed to same-sex marriage.
“That was a close call,” Smith said. “Maybe we should have.”
Kat Kendall, of the National Center for Lesbian Rights admitted, said that in the wake of the debacle, “I’m never going to be involved in another campaign.” Geoff Kors of Equality California acknowledges the decision to rely solely on an outside strategist was “a huge mistake.” The angry SF crowd, urged on by Petrelis, all but called for their heads.
And why not? One of the things we’ve done at Queerty since Prop. 8 is look at these leaders and give them the benefit of the doubt. We’ve listened to them explain the difficulty of running against a well-funded opponent in a ballot-initiative race they did not create.
The excuses — and I don’t use that word lightly — range from a lack of funding to a lack of communication to a a lack of openness.
Some, like Kors and Kendall, have been forthcoming in the mistakes they made and have vowed to do better. Others, like Lori Jean of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, maintain they “honestly don’t know how they could have run a better campaign” and angrily defy any inquiry in what went wrong in the campaign. Other groups, like the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, both charged with field operations, have stood by silently escaping scrutiny, while more responsible leaders have taken then lion’s share of the heat.
What possible reason does a gay, lesbian or transgender person have to donate a single dollar to any of them? I can’t think of one. Can you?