It's still neck and neck in California, but the gay-Democratic establishment is still in the grip of focus-group Clintonism. Ann Rostow feels that prop 8 will pass as a result:

A positive message would have pre-empted attack ads. Instead we fell into their traps, forcing ourselves to insist that California can become a marriage equality state without a corresponding commitment to equal rights throughout its institutions. No, gay marriage won’t be taught in schools if Prop 8 fails. But neither will the idea that gay marriage is wrong. We can’t tell the voters that they can vote against Prop 8 on one hand, and preserve a homophobic public policy on the other. They can’t, and they know it and we should have asked, not just for the status quo of the last five months, but for a future of respect. We could have described that future in an attractive way and I think we’d be in better shape today if we had.

Dale Carpenter adds his two cents:

What's interesting to me is that both sides have avoided the merits of allowing gay couples to marry. Gay-marriage supporters have done so, with focus-group tested messages in hand, because they suspect a large group of people even in a progressive statement are still deeply uncomfortable with homosexuality and certainly don't like gay marriage. Gay-marriage opponents have done so, I presume, because they know that Americans don't like to be seen as discriminating or opposing civil rights. So they paint gay marriage, instead, as itself a threat to the rights of religious people and parents. The theory seems to be that the side that's most seen as defending rights is the side that wins.

I doubt that any months-long campaign of television ads, no matter their content, could really change the basic impulses most people have on this issue. Those impulses, whether they lead you to support or oppose gay marriage, are developed over a lifetime of experience. Very few people come to this issue without some fairly strongly held views. Such views are hard to dislodge.

Still, there's something to Rostow's hope that one day gay-marriage supporters might actually argue that gay marriage is a good thing. If we're going to lose these ballot fights anyway, why not fight the good fight rather than the agnostic one?

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