Last night, I attended a forum at UCLA, “Election 2008: A New Administration, the LGBT Vote, & Proposition 8” sponsored by UCLA’s Williams Institute and the Center for American Progress.Â The only thing it accomplished was to provide further insight into the mind of gay left activists.Â If I hadn’t run into a couple friends and acquaintances, it would have been a wasted evening.
Yes, one panelist, Hunter College Political Science Professor Kenneth Sherrill, did offer some an interesting breakdown of the electorate in last night’s presidential contest.Â And some panelists did offer interesting insights on the incoming Obama Administration.Â But, they didn’t really consider why Proposition 8 passed.Â Well, they did demonize the “Yes” campaign.Â And someone (maybe more than one someone) wondered why all these people currently protesting in the streets hadn’t volunteered for the campaign to defeat the initiative.
Panelists offered much praise for one of their own, Equality California’s Geoff Kors, yet no one thought to question his failed strategy.Â Most offensive of all was that it was impossible for those not on the panels to ask tough questions.Â We had to write our queries down on cards and pass them up.Â The moderator decided which to pose to the panelists.
I sat next to a friend, a practicing psychiatrist, whom I chanced upon at the event.Â While his politics are different from mine, he shared my frustration about the discussion.Â He wrote out the question he would have asked.Â And with his permission, I reprint it:
Where is the soul-searching over our failure?
In medicine, we have a tradition of ruthless examination of how our own practices contributed to treatment failure. Please tell us how you individually and collectively have been ruthless in your examination of our and your own contributions to defeat Prop 8.
No one posed this question or a similar question to Kors, the only panelist who represented the team fighting 8.Â So, he didn’t let us know if he or any of his fellows on the “No on 8” campaign–had even engaged in such an examination to figure out what they had done wrong.
I have a theory on why they failed. I believe they did not show respect for those who supported 8 not out of bigotry but because of their understanding of sexual difference as a defining aspect of marriage. Had they worked on a way to reach people holding such views, they might have seen a different result last Tuesday.
I had drawn up a question (again not posed) based upon that theory:
With a leadership which well represents its left-wing donor base, how do gay groups reach out to social moderates and conservatives whom we most need to move?
In short, the gay groups need to reach out to people who are least like themselves. They need to communicate with people who speak a different (cultural) language than they do.
Alas, that the panelists could not consider these questions, the excellent question of my liberal friend and my own modest contribution. Yet, they are questions gay community “leaders” need address to better understand their recent failures and to better prepare a strategy to reach those people they’ll need to persuade in future campaigns.