Great article from MinnPost that talks about Frank Schubert and his strategy. Yesterday, I wrote about his late-in-the-game tactics. The MinnPost article highlights how this strategy came to be and how he helped California pass Prop 8 (limiting the rights of marriage) with said strategy:
According to a 90-minute presentation Schubert made to the American Association of Political Consultants, the firm’s Prop 8 ads were the outgrowth of careful opinion surveying and message testing to learn what themes would sway the 10-15 percent of California voters who were open to being influenced.
One key element: After hearing that many people felt unaffected by the nature of a relationship between two other individuals, the firm realized it had to attach consequences to gay marriage. Voters in California, where same-sex marriage was legal before Prop 8, might not yet realize their liberty was being infringed, Schubert said.
The resulting campaigns, emotionally charged images accompanied by questionable arguments that gay marriage actively takes rights away from heterosexuals, have proven very hard to combat.
Let me re-emphasize part of that. This statement is so telling:
After hearing that many people felt unaffected by the nature of a relationship between two other individuals, the firm realized it had to attach consequences to gay marriage.
At the end of the day, the majority of Californians (and Minnesotans, too) are unaffected by a committed same-sex relationship, and Schubert knows this! Hence, his strategy of scare tactics that paint a picture of dire consequences if voters were to not pass the marriage amendment.
We know his strategy, and we know it’s extremely effective, so what are we doing to counter it? I struggle to understand why we haven’t come out with a preemptive educational piece for Minnesota voters. Instead of waiting for Schubert to attack us, why don’t we go on the offensive and share the fact that defeating this amendment won’t make same-sex marriage legal in Minnesota, it won’t force kindergarten teachers to teach kids about same-sex marriage and it won’t have any other dire consequences that Schubert and his campaign are sure to paint. Instead, we wait.
While our strategy of having conversations with voters across the state is part of our offense (and really good for Minnesota in the long-term), I worry that by not addressing Schubert’s tactics early, we’re going to be caught off guard and it’ll have far-reaching consequences (and really bad for Minnesota in the short-term).
Earlier this month, the Star Tribune ran an article on Frank Schubert, one of the strategic masterminds behind several marriage amendment campaigns. The article provides quotes from Shubert, along with insight into his strategy:
Schubert’s template is simple, yet has proven remarkably effective. He works stealthily, through churches and sympathetic groups for most of the race, waiting till the end, when he unleashes a blitz of television ads that often feature rosy-cheeked children bounding home to tell their parents they learned in school that “a prince can marry a prince.”
In addition to writing about Shubert’s work on California’s Prop 8, and the work he’s doing here in Minnesota, a good portion is spent on Shubert’s personal life. The man who is on a mission to “protect marriage” is divorced himself. After nine years of marriage and two kids, he decided that it really wasn’t for him.
While that is certainly ironic, the part of the article that disgusts me the most is what the Tribune has to share about Shubert’s very own sister:
[Starting a consulting company focused on social issues] forced him to confront another painful family reality: His new cause was putting him on course to ensure that his lesbian sister would never be able to marry her longtime female partner, even as they raise two children together.
“I called her before I got involved in this issue and explained to her what I was going to do,” Schubert said. “We agreed to disagree. I love her very much.”
A man, so dedicated to ensuring committed same-sex couples can’t celebrate a life together, will stop at nothing for his cause.
It’s a long article, but worth the read. Folks, this tells us what we’re up against…
In the past decade, 31 states put to a vote the question of whether or not gay people should be allowed to get married. 31 states have put those minority rights up to a vote and in all 31 of those states, that minority rights issue has gone down to defeat. But here’s the thing about rights. They’re not actually supposed to be voted on. That’s why they’re called rights.
Rachel Maddow, August 2010
Source: Politically Illustrated
Maddow speaks out in response to California’s passing of Prop 8 banning gay marriage in the state.
In February, I posted a blog titled, “So Much for Disclosure Laws” highlighting the fact that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) funneled donations through other organizations to fund their campaign to pass the amendment. A month later, I shared how organizations fighting to pass the marriage amendment in Minnesota were under investigation. Sadly, in July I shared that the disclosure complaint was dismissed because of technical rules in the disclosure laws.
Now, there’s news that Yes on 8, the campaign that fought to pass Prop 8 in California, was found guilty on multiple counts of not disclosing donors. The impact? The organization may be required to pay $49,000.
Years after Prop 8 is passed, Yes on 8 is found guilty for breaking the law and nothing changes in California. So what’s the point of the law in the first place? These cases highlight the fact that donation disclosure laws in this country are simply a joke.
I found this video a while back and think it’s a great time to post as I’ve been talking a lot about how important individual conversations are. The 2-minute video above features a variety of Hollywood folks (including our favorite funny gal, Kathy Griffin) making marriage equality personal. Kathy starts out:
Ok, we all have friends, right? Now if somebody was going to hurt your friend, you wouldn’t let them. You would say something. You would do something.
While we all know the sad fact that Prop 8 passed in California, updating the state constitution to make same-sex marriage illegal, the video itself is still really effective. It’s effective because the various stars of the video make it personal:
When I heard about California’s Proposition 8, you know, the one that bans gay marriages… I thought of my friend Howard. My friend Sam. Rachel and Percy. I thought of my friend Sara. Changing the constitution to take away rights for my friend, the right to marry and have equal rights and live her life how she wants to do is something that I could never do. It’s not fair.
In addition, each person makes a plea to help get the word out:
It’s as easy as a call, a text or email to help spread this very important message. Do whatever you can, do whatever you can to reach out to loved ones, friends, families, enemies and urge them to not write discrimination into the California state constitution.
Take a few minutes to watch. Heck, I think I’m even going to drop Kath a note to see if she’ll send her support all the way up here to Minnesota. :)
Here’s to changing hearts and minds, one conversation at a time.
I figure folks could use a end-of-week smile! Check out the 60-second clip from Ellen where Brad Pitt speaks out against Prop 8 back in 2008.
I don’t think it has any place in our definition of America.
Couldn’t agree with you more, Brad. These propositions and amendments have no place in our constitution. Thanks to all of the folks that lend their voices to this fight. Keep telling your story and speaking out. That’s how we will defeat these mean-spirited measures.
Link to Video (opens in new window)
Earlier, I posted the “Gathering Storm” ad Prop 8 supporters ran in California. I mentioned how funny man, Stephen Colbert, created his own parody of the ad. Colbert spends a couple minutes of this clip talking about how some cultures’ traditions are pretty #$&!ed up.
And get this, did you know that in some US states, it is legal for two dudes to get married?
Colbert goes on to talk about the National Organization for Marriage and plays the Gathering Storm ad I shared earlier today. Perhaps my favorite part of Colbert’s response:
I love that ad, it is like watching the 700 Club and the Weather Channel at the same time.
The comedian talks about how he expected this gay marriage thing to be kept to other states, but now this “arma-gay-don” is spreading.
He then shares how he knew he had to do something, and his commercial begins to play. There are some wonderful moments in this video that mock tactics used by Prop 8 supporters, including:
Did you know that if all 50 states approve gay marriage, straight marriage becomes illegal?
Yes, I heard that somewhere.
I’m a New Jersey pastor whose church was turned into an Abercrombie and Fitch.
I’ll let you watch and enjoy it for yourself. When the mocked up commercial is over, Colbert comes back and says:
Remember, when the gay community is granted personal freedoms, ours get taken away. How? Shhhhh… Did you see all that lightening?
While it’s a funny parody, it’s still bittersweet to know that Prop 8 passed in California and similar amendments have passed in every state where they’ve been proposed. Minnesotans, it’s time to stand up and land on the right side of history by voting NO this NOvember.
This week, I’ve posted a variety of ads; some use fear to incite emotion while others use children. The above commercial, also from the supporters of Prop 8, creates the feeling of impending doom and starts with:
There’s a storm gathering
The clouds are dark and the winds are strong
And I am afraid…
This ad uses a different technique in that it leverages multiple adult characters each with a different line of dialogue (the disclaimer at the bottom of the screen tells us that these adult characters are all actors, however, they are supposedly telling stories based on real incidents).
The skies throughout the first part of the commercial are dark as each person speaks of the impending storm that is brewing and how rights have been taken away when marriage equality laws are passed.
I am a Massachusetts parent helplessly watching public schools teach my son that gay marriage is ok.
A California doctor and church group also share how they would supposedly be impacted if gay marriage were legal. The actors go on to say that same-sex marriage advocates are not content and they want to change the way Californians live and that people would have no choice.
The storm is coming.
A man appears with the text Damon Owens, National Organization for Marriage. As he begins to share that there is hope, the overcast skies open up and sun shines through. He shares how “a rainbow coalition of every creed and color coming together in love to protect marriage.” He concludes by putting a plug in for the organization’s website and then says “join us.”
I actually found the commercial to be a little creepy, almost cult-like with the last words Mr. Owens speaks. With that said, it is both memorable and effective as it paints a somber picture of how Californians may be impacted if gay marriage were legal.
Once again, however, the ad is easily debunked. The claim from the California doctor that she must choose between her faith and her job doesn’t make sense. Is she saying that she would have to choose whether or not a same-sex couple would be allowed to see each other in the hospital? Or is she saying that she would have to choose whether or not a same-sex couple raising a child should be allowed to see their daughter in the emergency room? Hmmm. If these are the choices this doctor is making, find me someone else, please! Who else does she hold a grudge against and how does that impact her other decisions?
As for the mother who can do nothing to stop her child from learning about same-sex couples, well I’m sorry to say, that fight is a lost battle. Have you turned on the television recently? Even childrens’ comics feature same-sex couples these days. The reality is, social norms are changing (have changed) and children in every state will be exposed to different definitions of love.
As for the church group that is punished for not following the law? Well, I would ask what benefits that church is receiving from their government? Tax laws in their favor? Other non-exempt benefits? I don’t fully understand why these organizations feel that they should benefit from the government partnerships, but then not be held to any standards of accountability. It always brings me back to the concept of church and state and I’ve got to ask if we’ve got the separation that our founders intended?
The ad was effective and has been viewed over a million times. In fact, it was so popular that Stephen Colbert created his own funny version of this ad (I’ll post it a little later today or tomorrow). While effective, there are clearly ways to counter this type of ad. The most effective is talking about it and pointing out some of the logical gaps mentioned above.
Here’s another one of those yes on Prop 8 commercials… This ad features a little girl who is confused asking what appear to be her two gay dads where babies come from and marriage.
When the daughter shares how her friend “Megan says you have to have a mommy and a daddy to have a baby,” the solution one of the “dads” has is spending less time with Megan. The other “dad” tries to explain that you only need a man and a woman to make a baby, but that they don’t have to be married.
There’s a lot of camera work in this ad; the camera focus shifts from one “dad” to the next and back to the little girl again. There’s uncomfortable pauses, shifting on the couch and when the little girl asks (only after looking down at the floor to clearly highlight her discomfort and confusion), “Then, what’s marriage for?” it’s clear that no one in the room has an answer.
The ad pauses and the voiceover states:
Let’s not confuse our kids. Protect marriage by protecting the real meaning of marriage, only between a man and a woman.
Here are a couple of key observations:
- Use of children (key tactic; this girl is exceptionally “confused” and her sad sad eyes connect directly with the camera several times)
- Use of fear (the discomfort of having to explain to our children where babies come from, how it requires a man and a woman, how gay people can have children, etc.)
- Protecting marriage verbiage
I’m sure this ad connected well with voters in California. The little girl played her part to a T, and clearly, the two “dads” could not come up with any words to talk with their “daughter.”
In reality, the conversation would have most likely gone something like this:
Megan says you have to have a mommy and a daddy to have a baby.
Well, sweetie, a child can be raised by a mommy and a daddy or a daddy and a daddy like our family. (Note, most parents would not steer the conversation to talk about a man and woman having sex to produce a baby)
Then, what’s marriage for?
Marriage allows two people who love each other very much, like your daddy and me, to share with their family and friends their love and commitment for each other. Just like Megan’s mommy and daddy got married and love her very much, your daddy and me love each other and love you so very much. And that’s what makes a family, the love we all bring.
I don’t even have kids, and yet I could have had a better conversation than how this ad portrayed these dads! With that said, I certainly don’t want to downplay the effectiveness of this ad and the emotion that it was meant to elicit from straight parents with children. Clearly, amendment supporters know how to connect with an audience and I would fully expect we’ll see similar messages here in Minnesota.
Again, my goal in sharing these videos is to help arm each of us with tactics and information on how best to respond when we see these ads. If someone were to ask me my thoughts, I’d share something like the above with them and then I would tell them about my good friend Alexis and how she’s raising a beautiful daughter with her partner and how they love her very very much.
These ads are effective because they connect with the audience and use tried and true tactics. We’ve got to be just as effective at connecting with that audience and we need to do that by debunking some of the fear but then telling our own personal stories to match. It’s going to be a hard fight in Minnesota, that’s why it’s important to start now!
Here’s another Prop 8 ad from California. This one leverages the familiar concept of the Mac vs PC ads Apple ran for a couple years. On the right, you have a younger man who is “No on Prop 8” while on the left, a larger, older man is “Yes.”
The ad talks about “fairness and dignity” and “discrimination” (I’ll explain the quotes momentarily). The ad also uses the tactic of highlighting what _should_ be more important to Californians than stopping same-sex marriage (the economy, war, etc.)
Overall, the ad is watchable, but it lacks any real connection with the audience. The Mac vs PC ads were hip, catchy and there were a lot of them. This allowed people to connect to the campaign over time. In the Prop 8 ad, there’s no real personal investment in either character.
Not only that, but the ad used words like discrimination and fairness. You may recall that I recently posted an article that highlights the fact that those terms just don’t resonate with voters on this issue. Voters don’t see a lack of marriage equality rights as discrimination.
So in essence, the characters didn’t connect and the message fell flat. Meanwhile, Prop 8 supporters were running ads featuring lovable children and focusing on how Prop 8 would help protect them.
Overall, I don’t think NO on 8 is terrible ad. The concept is cute and the message _should_ resonate. However, we’ve learned time and time again that in order for the message to resonate on this topic, it has to be personal in nature. Here’s a great example of how this learning was applied by Get Up! Action for Australia. This ad uses no words, but instead, tells a personal story through a series of video clips. The 5 MILLION plus views this video has received in just months highlights the importance of character connection and a powerful message.
If you’d like to see how one person has already applied the learning here in Minnesota, check out my post For Better, For Worse, For All. While not an official ad, you’ll see the personal stories tactic applied.
Over the next week, I’m going to be sharing some ads that have aired in various states supporting marriage amendments. It’s important to understand the tactics that will be used here in Minnesota so that we can prepare friends and family for them and how to respond.
The above ad was run in California by supporters of Prop 8 and features no spoken words. Instead, the video features a little girl (maybe 2 or 3?) playing with two dolls: A groom and a wife. For the duration of the ad, she twirls and holds the dolls while a soft guitar strums in the background.
In the last five seconds of the 30 second ad, the words: “Marriage. It’s simple. Vote Yes on Prop 8” appear.
This ad features a common tactic used by amendment supporters: children. Time and time again, strategists have found that using children resonates with voters on the issue of marriage, especially those opposing same-sex marriage. In other commercials I’ll post, you’ll see another common tactic used, fear. Fear, combined with children (our kids will be taught about gay marriage in kindergarten if this passes, etc.) has been a winning strategy in many states.
This ad is designed to show that even from an early age, children know how marriage is defined. However, there’s a critical fault to the logic: the child in this ad only knows what she has been taught. A similar ad could have been used in the 60s; a child of that time would have held up the same two white dolls and the text at the end of the ad would have read the same. The only difference is that the ad would have been in opposition to interracial marriage at the time. Just because a child may be taught one thing or another, it doesn’t make it an accurate representation of society.
While the logic flaw is clear, make no mistake, this type of ad resonates extremely well with voters. In seeing the ad, the voter thinks, “Yeah, that does make sense. If we don’t pass this amendment, how will children be impacted?” But now that we better understand the tactic, we can help others think about an ad like this differently when they see it.
When these ads start to surface (online, TV, print), we need to talk about them and share our thoughts. My hope is that our friends, family and colleagues will think more along the lines of, “Marriage is about love and commitment and that’s what I want to teach our children.”
And that’s the kind of thinking is what will defeat this thing.
Note: Watch for additional commercials in the coming weeks.
I’ve got to say, this MinnPost article is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. The author, Beth Hawkins, does a great job exploring the importance of messaging in amendment battles. She also includes several examples of amendment advertisements within the story. Over the next week, I’ll dig into some of the examples she provides in the article, along with others available online. It’s fascinating to think about what resonates with voters.
It’s also fascinating to learn more about the in-depth studies that were done after the Prop 8 loss in California. As time allows, I’ll do some digging into the studies and share some of those learnings on this blog as well.
We’re going to be seeing a lot of ads (TV, online, print) as both sides pour a lot of money into Minnesota targeting those voters in the middle. I’m hopeful that in sharing ads (from both sides) readers will be armed with responses when we see similar ads start to spring up here.
Oh, and Beth Hawkins, consider me a fan. ;)
Ellen opens with Prop 8 news around how the measure was deemed unconstitutional this past week.
She also talks about her partnership with JC Penney and how One Million Moms wants to get her fired because she is gay. She goes on to talk about how JC Penney stood by their decision and how excited she is with their partnership (through humor, of course). She also reads some great posts from Facebook (both from One Million Moms and from her and JC Penney supporters).
Thanks Ellen. Thanks JC Penney. You’ve both got a new fan.
Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California…
Stephen Reinhardt, Judge, United States Court of Appeals