As I have said before, many of the marriage amendment opponents with whom I have debated in the past month and a half are intelligent and bright people who it was a pleasure to get to know. I can say the same thing about many opponents that came to hear us and who I got to meet after the forum. We disagreed but respect each other's intelligence and integrity.
But Fair Wisconsin, as an organization, not only lost, but it left as a loser. There is a post by a gay man in response to the elegiac finale on the "No on the Amendment blog(go to comments and scroll down a few from the top), posting Mike Tate's concession speech. This gentlemen (who calls himself "Skippy") is quite obviously upset that the amendment passed and angry with Fair Wisconsin. Referring to its deceptive last minute automated calls, Skippy said that Fair Wisconsin flat out "lied" to the people of Wisconsin. "I would like to see Fair Wisconsin Retired... and will not rest until that happens...", he writes, "NO BODY that sticks up for me is going to go around and LIE..."
The man believes that this may have convinced supporters of gay marriage or its equivalent to vote "yes" but also believes that it severely hurt the gay community by making "us out to be phonies [and] fakes." (NB: the guy who was responsible for the calls is not gay.)There were, when I last looked, 44 comments in response to the "concession" post. They lament the results and congratulate each other on their hard work, but no one addresses Skippy's concerns.
Commenting on Fair Wisconsin's sophisticated and prodigious fundraising, Rep. Mark Pocan pronounces the group a "winner" and he's right that they did many things very well.
But how do you justify a deliberate attempt to confuse voters? How do you excuse a lie? The ad campaign was, essentially, the equivalent of leafletting black neighborhoods with fliers that say, because the polls will be busy, Democrats should vote on Wednesday. It is as if the GOP had told elderly Jewish voters in West Palm Beach to check the box for Buchanan if they wanted to vote for Kerry.
No, it didn't work, but this isn't about the amendment. Does anything go in politics? Does your end justify any means? If you are persuaded that you are on the moral high ground, does that mean that you may lie in order to hold it?
I asked Mark Pocan to respond to these questions. He has apparently not had time to respond, but I really would like to hear from anyone who thinks this was ok. Pointing to ads that may have been nasty or played fast and loose with the facts is not an answer. These calls were uniquely deceptive. They were, arguably, a crime under Wisconsin law. While I'm not suggesting we put the bracelets on someone, these calls were audaciously fraudulent.
The amendment passed and we can continue to debate whether that is a good thing and how it ought to be interpreted. This is about the rules of the game. Do we really want our campaigns to be run in this way?