To fully appreciate the point of this post, please watch the ads embedded below, even if you've seen them before. It's all about context.
Those of us who had to suffer through the Proposition 8 campaign season remember well the Yes on 8 ads that just wouldn't stop hounding us with misinformation, flat out lies and distortion of the truth. And unfortunately, the Yes on 8 side was brilliant with their messaging, ripping apart our message of equality with four simple words: "What about the children?!"
Who can forget this infamous ad, turning our joyful moment against us?
But even at this point in the campaign, many Californians still weren't sure how marriage equality would affect them adversely, so why not let gays and lesbians marry? Until the death knell rang with these two ads.
(Notice how they zoom in on that child at the end? Look at this one for even FURTHER blatant manipulation of children.)
Suddenly, parents were up in arms. People were scared for their children. They will be indoctrinated! All of a sudden, marriage equality adversely affected everyone and everything - schools, churches, businesses. It stirred up dormant homophobia.
The NO on 8 campaign, lacking funds to keep up until the last month, couldn't hit back. They did get one ad that worked well, according to researched responses (despite the controversy that no gays or lesbians were actually in the ads):
However, after that, it didn't go well. Here's an example at an attempt to respond to the onslaught of Yes on 8 ads, but it was playing defense:
I don't know about you, but I got a "not so fresh feeling" from this ad.
The following ad was done at the last minute in an attempt to frame the debate as a civil rights issue, which changed the messaging of the campaign from equality to civil rights (use of language is oh so important, as well as message discipline. To us, equality and civil rights are the same thing, but that's for us. Our target audience didn't see it that way.)
However, this had the opposite effect of its intent, offending many in the African American community and other people of color by comparing their civil rights struggle to the LGBT civil rights struggle.
Now, keeping our loss in California in mind, view again the official campaign Maine ads from both sides of the issue. Have we learned from our losses? Are we hitting back hard enough? We got the first ads on the air, allowing us to frame the debate how we want it. We can be on the offense. But are we?
First official campaign ad to hit the air was ours. Actually, the NO on 1 campaign kicked off two. (View the first unofficial marriage equality ad in Maine.)
These were on the air for a good week before the Yes on 1 side (aka the Yes on 8 people) began airing theirs yesterday. Who could've guessed that the ad used the same ol' argument that was used here in California? Broken record anybody? (Notice the use of a law professor, same as the Yes on 8 ad above - an authority figure of sorts.)
Today came an immediate response from the NO on 1 campaign. And they deserve a huge round of applause for learning from Prop 8 by responding immediately. However, do you feel it addresses Yes on 1? Does it hit back hard enough? I recall the Yes on Prop 8 campaign playing extremely dirty. Since Yes on 1 is ran by the same people, we can expect them to do it again. Does this response kill such tactics before they begin?
Reporter Rex Wockner, who was "forced to blog" on these ads (and with a domino effect, pushed me to blog), wrote, "They are not hard-hitting. They are high-minded concept ads. They are a repeat of No on 8's mistakes in California. The 1st ad above is decent, showing a real gay family and speaking some truth. But overall: Reboot now. 33% is a failing grade."
I feel I must agree. The first ad was good. It framed the debate by showing REAL Mainers (NOT actors), real gays and lesbians with their families, faces that will be harmed by vetoing the marriage equality law. It portrayed the cherished Maine mantra of "live and let live" and that Maine doesn't need outside influence telling what it should do. (Something Mainers hate!)
But we knew. We knew what the opposition was going to say. "They're going to force this on you whether you like it or not." "You're children will be taught homosexual marriage is ok in schools!" "Your churches, your businesses will be sued!" Basically saying we harm children and society in general.
Shouldn't we have had an ad on the air already addressing these specific concerns before the Yes on 1 opened their lying mouths? Shouldn't we have had an authority figure who demands respect, who is from Maine, discounting all the forthcoming arguments? (Gov. Baldacci comes to mind.)
Yet, in our rebuttal to the Yes on 1 side, we repeat ourselves. Sticking to "outsiders are going to ruin Maine" theme isn't going to work if Mainers agree with the outsiders.
And believe me, plenty do!
We need to kill their arguments before they even voice them. We need to tell Mainers, "You're going to hear that marriage is going to be taught in schools, but you have the power to decide that yourself in your districts. You're going to hear that your church is going to be sued, but you already have protections in place by law. The other side is going to try and confuse this issue, to state things that are not in the law. They want to mislead you. They will lie to you.
"This is not about curriculum, not about religion. What this is about is civil marriage for all. It's about protecting families. It's about being fair."
But that's just a start. It's got to hit harder. Expose the lies as lies. Like this one. And this one, and so many more.
No one likes being lied to. I have a feeling Mainers will be pissed. I think we should tell them. Don't you?
The NO on 1 campaign is doing amazing work. I support it wholeheartedly and am very happy with what I am seeing, especially compared to the No on 8 campaign. But I see room for improvement. I see that we can win. And we don't have much time. I'd rather speak up now than regret being silent later.
Keep up the great work Maine. Now go expose those lies!
Recommended Reading: Marrige Equality Ad Battles Begins in Maine.