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November 15, 2008

Post Prop 8: learning the lessons

NYC Prop 8 demo I write this as demonstrations against Prop 8 occur around the country. (Right - NYC Wednesday night; HT for photo to Barbara Kerr) That's great (although I distance myself from anything framed as anti-Mormon per se). While it's been tough to have been too busy to be blogging in the last couple of weeks, I'm not unhappy to have missed all the heartburn in lgbt world about why we lost Prop 8, as the gay blogosphere has been flaming with finger pointing in various directions and with interpretations and counter-interpretations of election data. 

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First, let's suspend the instant analysis until we have fuller information.  There are at least three studies - that I know of - being done now about what went wrong, including more detailed empirical analysis than is possible from reviewing media web sites with exit poll data. The studies also include post-election focus groups on why people voted as they did.

Maybe these studies will confirm X analysis or Y analysis, or maybe, as is often the case in life, reality will turn out to be at least a little bit more complicated than all of our philosophically-driven explanations would paint it (and I acknowledge that my instant analysis is as much a reflection of my own beliefs as anyone else's). In other words, express the anger, but chill on the analysis until we have a fuller set of data.

Second, specifically with regard to the impact of black and Latino voters, let's not blink at either white gay race stupidity (and worse) or where a marriage equality message failed.  There's undoubtedly a degree of lgbt pain from being rejected by members of another minority whose own struggle for equality has been so prolonged and so important. I feel that, and I can only imagine what it must feel like for an lgbt person of color. I also recall that, as others have said, on every issue except marriage, the support for lgbt equality is stronger in communities of color than anywhere else.  Just compare the pro-gay voting record of the Congressional Black Caucus with any other group in Congress - nothing comes close. And I am quite suspicious of analyses that focus on people of color as somehow the location from which the missing 400,000 votes were supposed to have come. Other groups - unmarried women, from what I've heard - voted by a majority against Prop 8, but by a significantly smaller majority than was projected.  Are single women to blame for the defeat?

That said, after we've dropped the blaming - sometimes racist - language that has emerged since election day, let's not pretend that all is well on this front. There are reasons why communities of color did not vote against Prop 8 in the ways we wanted and needed, and those reasons need to be addressed head on. Maybe the No on 8 campaign should have spent more/different resources directed toward black and Latino voters, but that's way too easy a response.  Maybe just throwing more money into certain ads or get out the vote efforts would have turned the tide.  Even if that's true, however, there are deeper reasons operating here. Hopefully, some of those dynamics will become more clear when focus group analyses come in.  Whatever they are, our duty is to deal with them, in all their complex realities.

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A good way of understanding at the same learning the right way.

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