Taking issue yesterday with Patrick Range McDonald’s criticism of the current campaign to defeat this fall’s California ballot proposition which would amend the state constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, Alex Blaze of the Bilerico Project suggests that Golden State LGBT activists are neither tone deaf nor political amateurs as McDonald claims. As proof of this, he points out that they “got same-sex marriage passed by the state legislature two times in the past several years.”
I will grant that state LGBT activists are hardly political amateurs, that is, when it comes to lobbying. They do a good job influencing elected officials Sacramento, but the legislature there is hardly a normal one.
Our state Senate districts are bigger than our congressional districts. Our state Assembly districts have (on average) only 50,000 fewer people than does the entire state of Wyoming. Our state House is one of the smallest while the state has a greatere population than any other. Montana, North Dakota and Vermont, each of which send one only Representative to the U.S. House, all have larger state Houses than does California which sends fifty-three.
And these districts are so gerrymandered that in the past two elections, not a single seat shifted sides.
As a result, we have a tone-deaf legislature where the Democratic majority continues to cook up new means to regulate the economy and increase the size of state government while facing fiscal crisis after fiscal crisis. There’s not enough money to pay for the programs already on the books, but instead of trying to reduce their costs, our legislators seek to invent new ones.
Just as they give short shrift to our financial woes, our legislatures also take little heed of the popular will. Twice they voted for gay marriage without once considering what the citizens, who had overwhelmingly voted against it, thought. Had they considered the people they represent, they would have referred the matter to them by putting a measure on the ballot repealing the measure the citizens favored (Proposition 22).
To be sure, some claim the popular mood has shifted since 2000 when that proposition passed. But, the only true way to measure that would be to ask citizens to reconsider. Our legislature, however, thinks they know better than did the citizens. Insulated from rejection at the polls by gerrymandered districts, legislators voted whichever way they wanted or in response to the appeals of whichever lobbyists did the best job of convincing them. And I’ve got to give the gay lobby in this state credit for doing its job well.
But, convincing legislators is not the same thing and appealing to citizens less obsessed with looking good in the media. And that is why I (and I presume Patrick Range McDonald) are concerned about the leadership of the campaign to defeat this fall’s ballot proposition.
They may know what it takes to lobby an out-of-touch legislature. They don’t seem to understand how to influence socially conservative voters. And while California may appear to be one of the most socially liberal states, our population includes many groups who, while they vote Democratic, remain skeptical (if not outright opposed) to the idea of gay marriage.
Unless, groups opposed to this propositon bear that in mind, they’re going to find that while they might succeed in the legislature in Sacramento, they won’t in polling places across the state.