Based on conversations I’ve had with those close to the leadership of the gay organizations who spearheaded the campaign last fall against Proposition 8 and on what I have read on the web about the “Meet in the Middle” rallies this past weekend, I’d say the prospects look pretty poor for overturning Proposition 8 next fall at the ballot box.
To be sure, a lot could change between now and then. We haven’t yet seen the wording for the ballot initiative. The campaign promoting the initiative could include Republicans–or at least those who know how to communicate with Republicans (but based on past experiences, I wouldn’t bet on it).
The problem is threefold:
- GOP Turnout Will be up in 2010. Based on tradition patterns for off-year election, Republican turnout should be up in 2010. Given GOP outrage over the rapid growth in federal spending and the return of big government, conservatives seem particularly emboldened to head to the polls next fall.
- Left-wing Nature of Campaign to Overturn. The rhetoric at the Decision Day Rally I attended sounded more like that for a left-wing gathering than for a movement ot win the hearts and minds of centrist and conservative voters. The leaders of the movement (as it is now constituted) have a background in “progressive” movements, thus are not conditioned to appeal to those they most need to reach.
- Default Reaction is Voting “No” on Initiatives. When voters don’t know enough about a particular initiative, they tend to vote “No.” This could mean a huge chunk of electorate just votes against some measures as if by rote. Given how much media attention gay marriage attracts, that “chunk” will be much smaller on this issue, maybe 2-3 percentage points, but that could be enough. Bear in mind that in 2010, unlike 2008, a “Yes” vote would be a vote for gay marriage.
Still, it’s early, way early. And the leadership of the movement to overturn 8 does have time to address the second issue, the one they can most readily fix. They should tear a page from Barack Obama’s 2008 general election campaign. Almost as soon as he wrapped up the Democratic nomination, he began to reverse some of his positions and move to the center as he addressed the concerns of voters in the middle, reassuring them that he would pursue a more centrist path.
Right now, the prospects don’t look good for overturning 8 in ’10. But, a lot could change in 17 months.