Monday, June 8, 2009

So what's up in California?

The marriage equality campaign for Prop 8 is widely viewed as having been, well, incompetent. They got complacent, and I remember feeling very worried last summer that they were not doing much. Folks were asked to write a check, or make phone calls. In fact, when they finally tried to get people out to street corners to counter the sign-waving bigots of the "Yes" campaign, the volunteers were told not to bother to engage, or try to change minds. One person told me that gay-friendly San Francisco was leafleted many times; equality supporters in Fresno were left on their own. And let's not even talk about the soft advertisements which featured no gay people and did not anticipate or respond to the lies and bigotry from the other side.

This led to a lot of anger after the fact against Equality California, which tends to be heavy in the San Francisco and Los Angeles centers of "high gay". Like the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, EqualityCA appears to be somewhat cumbersome, and traditionalist. After the election, there was a push by the progressive group Courage Campaign to build a grass-roots army against Prop8. The Courage Campaign has since been running "Camp Courage" weekends to train activists on the ground, which is a great move. EqualityCA also revamped, recruiting a new campaign director, and the two large groups appear to have established some kind of an alliance for the next round, all to the good.

But, a nimble, small group has appeared on the scene: Yes on Equality. As recently reported in the LA Weekly, Yes on Equality is the first group to file language with the attorney general for repeal.

Now, I am not an expert. But it seems to me that these groups need to ally and organize quickly. They can't have turf wars, and they have to be expert in the distinctive political climate in California. Each brings strengths to the table: EqualityCA in the money centers of gay politics; Courage Campaign with its roots in progressive political issues; Yes on Equality with an energized base in the people. But EqualityCA blew it last time, and they can't be left alone to run it. (I have to say that my enthusiasm for EqualityCA has waned just the way it waned for the HRC in Washington, which seems more concerned with a narrow, cautious approach that keeps them political "insiders"). It would be nice to see some grown up behavior from all concerned rather than angling for power and ego.

So, here's what I would like see happen:
  1. Identification of a director and experienced staff. And familiarity with California is essential.
  2. Define a clear campaign "brand" and start getting material out there (building on the current "I DO! support freedom of marriage" is probably simplest)
  3. Coordinate grass roots efforts; right now, both Courage Campaign and Equality are doing canvassing, but it's not clear if this is coordinated
  4. Outreach to the diverse communities of the state. This can't be centered in the Castro and WeHo.
  5. Argue on multiple fronts. We have to be pro-active, not re-active. We can't let the other side define the issues again.

Remember, the bad guys don't have to re-vamp. They are all ready for this, with their lies, their twisting of religion, their bigotry. We have to out-think them and out-maneuver them. And there isn't much time.


Mark Netter said...

I cover Northern California for the first and largest social media marketing and intelligence company in the U.S., headquartered in D.C. I've been searching for contact(s) at the pro-equality organization most likely to hire a firm like ours to do the very outreach you write about. Our Public Affairs division wants to help on this issue -- both from the progressive left and the libertarian right.

Can you point me in the right direction, with any contacts as well?

You can email me at Thanks!

IT said...

Hi Mark
Thanks for stopping by. I suggest you contact
Courage Campaign
I will forward your info to the people I know, but I must admit they are low level volunteers

Good luck!

Mark Netter said...

Thanks, will give both a shot.