Playing to win equality: The ‘aggressive attitude’ of Fight Back New York

Ben Smith and Byron Tau wrote a profile of Fight Back New York, that’s about more than just that group. It’s about a shift in how gay groups are playing politics. Some at least are playing to win:

“We’re at a point of time where the national conversation around marriage in a lot of states has moved to a point where it’s no longer acceptable to not be there,” said Bill Smith, the deputy executive director of the Gill Action Fund, the donor’s political arm.

“This is the first time we’re going to name names and say, ‘We’re coming to get you because you’re against marriage equality,’” said Smith. “The point is, when you vote against marriage equality, there are consequences.”

Yes, thanks to Fight Back New York, there were consequences in that state this year. If we’re going to succeed, we can’t just play nice. Elected officials don’t respond to nice. They respond to fear of losing, especially in primaries.

New York’s elections were the proving grounds this year:

Gay donors “came out of the closet with this,” said David Mixner, a veteran gay activist who called the New York campaign “transformational.”

With same-sex marriage battles ramping up this year in Maryland, Rhode Island and New York (again), the new strategy, said Smith, is a shift to offense.

“In the past, the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community has been more carrot, less stick,” he said. “Now I would say, ‘Have stick, will travel.’”

This newly aggressive attitude comes from 2010 results that were truly striking: The group, despite playing in just three carefully targeted districts, spent more money in New York — $790,000 — than any other outside group. The money went to negative mailings, television ads and get-out-the-vote calls. By November, Fight Back New York had helped unseat all three incumbent legislators, something almost unheard of in Albany, and to defeat another Republican candidate who opposed same-sex marriage.

This is how the NRA engages in politics. It works.

We don’t need more “friends” in Congress and State Legislatures. We need more people to vote for our issues. I don’t care if they like us. I prefer that they fear us. I just want them to vote for full equality.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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