The road ahead or dead end?

Protect NC Families is up with two ads trying to defeat the discriminatory Amendment 1:

I’m split on these ads.  From a tactical point of view, I like them, they try to tackle an issue in an emotional way, telling a story and putting a face to the consequences of passing an amendment that might otherwise be anonymous. They’re well filmed and well made, not earth shattering, but really solid and professional.

At the strategic level, I wonder if these spots are barking up the right tree. I totally get the thinking, we can’t argue gay marriage in North Carolina, we’ll never win, so let’s make it about straight folks, real North Carolinians who will lose their rights. We’ll get them on self interest. Shoot, even as I write the argument down it’s compelling, and I could see myself falling down a similar rabbit hole.

But while it’s compelling, I’m not sure it’s right (funny thing about being wrong, it feels just like being right… until the moment you realize you’re wrong). First off people vote on values, they vote on emotion, they don’t vote on rational self interest. Secondly, there’s been some pretty interesting research that you don’t move people when you talk about gay marriage as a rights issue.  People don’t get married for their partners benefits, they get married because they love each other, they get married to make a commitment to that love, they get married to spent their lives together — not to spend their insurance coverage.

So I wonder if the Protect NC Families is miscalculating. I’m sure on a poll this message drives voters, but in the real world, I wonder if it’s a dead end — especially to the extent that the Amendment is associated with gay marriage in the mind of voters. It’s sort of pulling a bait and switch, don’t think of an elephant kind of trick.

Compare those ads with this one from New York:

This ad takes the point of view of straight people, but does it in the context of a mother’s love for her child, and her approval of her son’s love for another man. That’s a pretty powerful message, and it doesn’t risk alienating voters. I wonder if these ads are just being too cute with this issue instead of trying to deal with it head on.

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