Last night restored my faith in the American political system. Not just because Obama won, but because of how he won. I felt he did his best to try to focus the campaign on the actual issues, while his opponents relied more on the standard playbook, even attempting to reduce him to words like "socialist" and "terrorist".
I felt like Obama did his best to avoid such tactics. I was especially impressed with his response to the whole Wright controversy, where he defied conventional wisdom to just brush it under the rug. Instead, he addressed the issue head on in a speech on race that demonstrated real respect for Americans' intelligence. In my mind, a win for Obama was also a win for a more intelligent, respectful brand of politics, or at least a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, my restored faith didn't last long. I woke up this morning to find Proposition 8 with a current lead for "yes". I won't argue against Prop 8 -- people far more qualified than me have already done so. But I would like to highlight some examples of bad tactics by Prop 8 proponents that may have affected the outcome in an unfortunate way:
Falsely implied support from Obama.
They sent fliers that used Obama's image and even launched robocalls that used his voice, all of which gave the impression that Obama supported Prop 8. In reality, Obama wrote a letter to Alice stating:
"I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states.""The Obama-Biden ticket opposes Proposition 8 and similar discriminatory constitutional amendments that could roll back the civil rights he and Sen. Biden strongly believe should be afforded to all Americans."
Lied about kids and schools.
From the ProtectMarriage.com "fact sheet":
"Proposition 8 protects our children from being taught in public schools that same-sex marriage is the same as traditional marriage. In health education classes, state law requires teachers to instruct children as young as kindergarteners about marriage. (Education Code §51890.) If the same-sex marriage ruling is not overturned, teachers will be required to teach young children that there is no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage."
Threatened companies who donated to Equality California.
Some might even call it extortion. They wrote letters to these companies requesting a donation to their cause, adding:
"Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. You would leave us no other reasonable assumption. The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published. It is only fair for Proposition 8 supporters to know which companies and organizations oppose traditional marriage."
I'm disappointed that tactics like these are effective. I'd like to see American politics evolve to a point where educating voters becomes the most effective way to win campaigns. The only way to get there is if lying and fear mongering stop working.
Last night made me hopeful that we might be turning a corner toward this end. But today has demonstrated that we still have a long way to go. I realize it's not over yet, but the fact that there's a current lead for "yes" shows that there are still quicker paths to political gains than educating voters and respecting their intelligence.