Only if I had a spoonful of sugar handy . . .
The hardest part about what Maggie says is that a chunk of it is true. We had a big leading advantage in Maine and we lost it.
So what are we doing wrong?
As I have said before, Equality Maine has done amazing work in the state, building a strong grassroots infrastructure while doing the everyday task of educating residents on LGBT issues.
On top of that, the NO on 1 campaign did learn from the defeat in California and applied most but not all the lessons learned expediently.
We still lost. And hearing Maggie point out these facts is equivalent to sticking ice picks in my ears.
It's a sad fact we need to face: our messaging is not working.
Terry Leftgoff, who formerly served as the highest ranking openly gay officer of the California Democratic Party and oversaw numerous campaign efforts, wrote in an email (shared with permission by Rex Wockner) about our messaging from the NO on 1 campaign:
"I believe it is clear: we must radically reinvent our messaging, tactics and strategy...I have to agree with what Terry says and I have been saying so for some time. Again, this is not a criticism of the amazing, hardworking people behind the NO on 1 campaign, but an evaluation of us as a whole, the LGBT population and allies, as we struggle to define the message that we know innately - that we deserve equal rights - and translate it to the masses so that they will be motivated to vote with us.
"Most importantly, there was no effective response to predictable lies about children and schools, the identical lies made a year earlier during Prop 8.
"The response both times was to validate the implied homophobia by denying/agreeing that we don't teach about marriage or gays in school: 'Oh no, we should never talk about those gays because they're bad.' This validates and surrenders an emotionally charged subtext with an specious intellectual response; taken in isolation, it is a loser. Rather we need to develop strong proactive and affirmative messages that completely redirect the debate and reach higher to universal American principles and human respect. And we need to hit early and hit hard."
It's no easy task. Otherwise, we wouldn't have lost 31 states. But where do we begin?
"There are a number of ways to accomplish this," Terry believes. "One way is to effectively portray the real effect denigration and rejection has on us and our children. It is about gut empathy. Many voters can get that and it is completely missing from our arsenal."
Just as the Yes on 1 campaign showed children acting sad for the cameras while at school, "suffering" from "homosexual marriage being forced upon them," we need to show our very real families really suffering from being treated unequally and forced to live with state sanctioned discrimination.
I believe New Jersey takes a big step in the right direction with their new marriage ads. This ad is so powerful, so raw, it should have been our strategy from day one.
(View the other ad)
The direction this ad takes can also be applied to countering the opposition's school argument about how LGBT students and children of LGBT families suffer at schools simply because of who they are.
We have lost in 31 states. But you can view that from a different angle. The ball is in our court in 31 states. We can now choose when to go back to the ballot. This time we won't be on the defense, forced to forge a campaign with little time. We'll be on the offense. We can now learn from our 31 defeats and turn them into victories. It takes time, diligence, sweat and tears - it will be scary, but we can do it. The power is on our side now.
We must use this power wisely.
EVENT: Learn about messaging from some of our top experts. Vote For Equality is hosting, "Why Messaging Matters." Limited seating. First come first serve. Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 7pm.
I highly recommend this. It will dissect our campaign ads and the opposition's and evaluate what worked and what didn't. Arm yourself with this knowledge. It's so important moving forward a this crossroad in our movement.