03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Power of Fear and the Obligation to Hope

I was not expecting the news to look like that this morning!

Yes, it was not surprising to learn that New Jersey and Virginia both elected Republican Governors - though it is deeply saddening. But I could not have predicted a loss in the tiny, liberal, free state of Maine.


Yesterday, I posted a story talking about fundraising in LGBT causes and how central the money raised was to a successful push for LGBT rights. Maine, the state we have all been watching closely for months, had a strong pro-rights group with a significant fundraising lead over the opposition. I was sure, sure, that the dollars would translate into successful votes on an issue where spin is so central to individual political affiliations.

But, the morning after, many are saying that the same old arguments -- they'll teach your kids to be gay in schools, children will no longer have mothers and fathers, marriage will be meaningless for everyone -- resonated with the public. At this point, I have to agree. There is something about the fear tactic that works.

Perhaps because fear tactics have always worked. When working to promote rights at the ballot box, we are asking people to accept an unknown, to extend benefits and to do so with no concrete benefit to themselves. They are being told that this extension of rights will have concrete negative effects on their quality of life and quality of life for their children. Many don't want to take the risk.

Identifying the fear is important.

Things that people are afraid of take a long time to happen. But they most often do. Over time, the barriers break down, the arguments for the other side lose their cache, and people start to feel like they were just ridiculous for ever believing that a silly thing like marriage could affect their lives at all.

We will get there. Slowly, but surely. And this morning, I recognize just how difficult that optimism is to hold onto.