Less than two weeks before Election Day, the chief strategist behind a ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage in California called an emergency meeting here.Much further down in the article, we see that this call for funds came after Prop 8 opponents were raking in huge sums, including "$3.9 million at a star-studded fund-raiser held at the Beverly Hills home of Ron Burkle." The "Yes" side needed to keep up with that and had to worry about a barrage of advertisements featuring appealing celebrities, such as the lovely Ellen Degeneres ad that "No on 8" released on October 17.
“We’re going to lose this campaign if we don’t get more money,” the strategist, Frank Schubert, recalled telling leaders of Protect Marriage, the main group behind the ban.
The campaign issued an urgent appeal, and in a matter of days, it raised more than $5 million, including a $1 million donation from Alan C. Ashton, the grandson of a former president of the Mormon Church. The money allowed the drive to intensify a sharp-elbowed advertising campaign, and support for the measure was catapulted ahead; it ultimately won with 52 percent of the vote....
First approached by the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco a few weeks after the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in May, the Mormons were the last major religious group to join the campaign, and the final spice in an unusual stew that included Catholics, evangelical Christians, conservative black and Latino pastors, and myriad smaller ethnic groups with strong religious ties.
It bothers me that these 2 parts of the article are so widely separated, because it makes the "Yes" side look like it was playing a fearsome offensive game, when it was on the defense.
The article also says that "[b]y mid-October, most independent polls showed support for the proposition was growing, but it was still trailing." Is that right? According to Pollster, Prop 8 was leading by double digits through September, but that support was slipping, so that by mid-October, it was only up by +8. If Pollster is right, "Yes" needed to fight to regain the ground that had been lost to "No." And despite this effort, "Yes" continued to slip, down to +5 in late October, and from there to the election result, a mere +4.
So what did this infusion of support from Mormons really do? It didn't turn everything around, did it? It seems as though it only worked to allow "Yes" to hold on to enough of its earlier support to win.
The article also has some interesting discussion of the door-to-door effort: "Mormons made up 80 percent to 90 percent of the early volunteers." The percentage sound high, but I'm curious about what "early" refers to. One could exaggerate by choosing the relevant point in time to count the percentage.
The canvass work could be exacting and highly detailed. Many Mormon wards in California, not unlike Roman Catholic parishes, were assigned two ZIP codes to cover. Volunteers in one ward, according to training documents written by a Protect Marriage volunteer, obtained by people opposed to Proposition 8 and shown to The New York Times, had tasks ranging from “walkers,” assigned to knock on doors; to “sellers,” who would work with undecided voters later on; and to “closers,” who would get people to the polls on Election Day.I've never read this detailed a discussion of how canvassers try to persuade voters. Personally, I do not even answer my door during the election season, and back when I did, I would never get into a conversation with someone about how I would vote. I'd just try to get rid of them. But I suppose plenty of people actually stand there and discuss the issues, and I'm not surprised to hear that canvassers have alternate scripts depending on how the prospective voter answers an introductory question. It's not devious or worrisome -- in general -- to have a Script A and a Script B, is it?
Suggested talking points were equally precise. If initial contact indicated a prospective voter believed God created marriage, the church volunteers were instructed to emphasize that Proposition 8 would restore the definition of marriage God intended.
But if a voter indicated human beings created marriage, Script B would roll instead, emphasizing that Proposition 8 was about marriage, not about attacking gay people, and about restoring into law an earlier ban struck down by the State Supreme Court in May.
“It is not our goal in this campaign to attack the homosexual lifestyle or to convince gays and lesbians that their behavior is wrong — the less we refer to homosexuality, the better,” one of the ward training documents said. “We are pro-marriage, not anti-gay.”
Are we troubled then, to hear that the "Yes" canvassers had alternate scripts that depended on whether the prospective voter was open to arguments that the right answer was God's answer?
The NYT article is headlined "Mormons Tipped Scale in Ban on Gay Marriage." That's a hefty assertion, and it comes after attacks that have targeted Mormons.
[Michael R. Otterson, the managing director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] said it was too early to tell what the long-term implications might be for the church, but in any case, he added, none of that factored into the decision by church leaders to order a march into battle. “They felt there was only one way we could stand on such a fundamental moral issue, and they took that stand,” he said. “It was a matter of standing up for what the church believes is right.”Was that phrase "order a march into battle" really justified? Should journalists use the metaphor of religion as war and imply that religious people have set aside their powers of reason and judgment and simply take orders from leaders? Otterson spoke of religious people having moral values and taking political positions based on those values. Surely, that is acceptable. Of course, Otterson has plenty of motivation to downplay the vision of churches wielding the power to impose religious dogma upon the general populace.
Mr. Ashton described the protests by same-sex marriage advocates as off-putting. “I think that shows colors,” Mr. Ashton said. “By their fruit, ye shall know them.”That's the last line of the article, and I can't tell if the NYT wanted us to laugh at Ashton. "By their fruit, ye shall know them" is a Biblical verse -- Matthew 7:16 -- but quick Google shows that there are gay rights t-shirts using the phrase, exploiting the double meaning of "fruit." Did the Times mean for us to view Ashton as a clueless scripture-spewer?