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Prop 8 Postmortem

Over at The Democratic Strategist, my friend Jasmine Beach-Ferrara has a very smart analysis of what did--and, mostly, didn't--work in the campaign to defeat the anti-same-sex marriage ballot initiative in California. Long story short, the campaign in favor of Proposition 8 simply ran rings around the campaign that was opposed to it:

The "Yes on 8" campaign was able to make this a national effort from the start, by tapping into the infrastructure of churches and online networks like Focus on the Family that know how to mobilize quickly. Additionally, they immediately saw both the national and historic implications of this campaign, arguing that it mattered at least as much as the presidential race.

In contrast, the "No on 8" campaign did not become national until October and even then it remained challenging for people outside California to engage as anything but donors. The common explanation for this is that there simply wasn’t enough time. Yet as early as 2006, I was told by strategists at a national LGBT organization that they fully anticipated fighting an anti-marriage ballot measure in California in 2008, and that it represented a rare chance to win. During the last two years, it would have been both prudent and strategic to develop a blueprint for a national campaign that could be quickly activated when the ballot measure was announced.

It's easy--and understandable--to get depressed about Prop 8's passage. But it's also worth remembering that its victory may be as much a testament to its supporters' organizing prowess as it is to any sort of widespread hostility to gay marriage itself. In other words, there are a lot of lessons--other than that the majority of California voters are intolerant--to take away from the Prop 8 campaign. And folks who support gay marriage would be wise to reevaluate how they conduct these campaigns, considering that their record right now is 1 for 30.

--Jason Zengerle