Inside the Yes On 8 Campaign

Two key organizers of the Yes On 8 campaign, Frank Schubert and Jeff Flint, have written a fascinating assessment of the Proposition 8 battle. Here’s just a snippet of their Politics Magazine piece.

Our strategy had anticipated that the No on 8 campaign would label as “shameful lies” any claim that gay marriage had anything to do with schools, so we went to great lengths to document our ads. We were prepared to play this scenario out to the finish, trading our ads of what happened in Massachusetts, with the No side’s ads saying it wouldn’t happen in California. But then we got the break of the election. In what may prove to be the most ill-considered publicity stunt ever mounted in an initiative campaign, a public school in San Francisco took a class of first graders to City Hall to witness the wedding of their lesbian teacher. And they brought along the media.

Now we not only had an example of something that had happened in California (as opposed to might happen), we had video footage to prove it. Within 24 hours of the No side airing their best ad, the one featuring O’Connell claiming that Prop 8 had nothing to do with schools, we were on statewide TV showing bewildered six-year-olds at a lesbian wedding courtesy of their local public school.

There were multiple skirmishes in the press over the education issue during the final days of the campaign. The other side claimed the wedding episode wasn’t really as we described it, while we defended the ad as accurate and highlighted other examples where gays had forced their agenda into the public schools (including an episode in Hayward where a school celebrated “coming out week” while urging kindergartners to sign pledge cards promising to be an ally of gay students). After several days of dueling ads featuring Jack O’Connell and kids at the lesbian wedding, the No side effectively conceded they had lost the education debate.

The minute the story about the first grade class came out, I predicted that the Yes On 8 people would land on it with both feet. And according to them, it handed them the election. Read the entire piece by Schubert and Flint, we could learn a lot from it.