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12/06/2010

IFF-y justice: Bob Vander Plaats still confusing deed with merit

by Jeremy Hooper

We want to address two new things from Bob Vander Plaats, the unsuccessfula Iowa gubernatorial candidate who instead chose to direct his electoral attention towards using personally-held faith to oust three justices who did nothing more than follow the equality guarantees in the Iowa state constitution. Bob gave both quotes to Focus on the Family:

#1: On whether or not the pro-equality side outspent his so-called Iowa For Mob Rule Iowa For Freedom group:

"As a matter of fact, I think we caught them a bit off guard, a bit naïve or arrogant, because it had never been done before. We were starting off a minimum of 50 percentage points in the hole. I think they really believed this would never happen. The closer we got to Election Day, the more they knew that our effort was gaining traction. The poll numbers were showing that we had a legitimate shot, and that’s when they finally got nervous. They put up a radio ad with former Gov. Robert Ray, a Republican. And then CitizenLink provided a very effective radio ad to counter that ad. CitizenLink, NOM, AFA — with their efforts in putting up TV ads — and Iowa For Freedom were really the focal point (of our success)."

This is the fundamental bastardization that summed up the IFF campaign. These folks kept trying to make it into a two-sided political battle, one where they were playing defense. In truth, we on the pro-equality side were "a bit off guard" because we NEVER.THOUGHT. A. RETENTION. VOTE. 6A00D8341C503453Ef0134869C87C4970C-2WOULD. BE. HIJACKED. AND. NATIONALIZED. FOR. THE. PURPOSES. OF. CULTURE. WAR. RETRIBUTION! That's because [a] these retention votes are, by design, meant to de-politicize the process; [b] the marriage equality ruling was simply one in the judges' long careers, and therefore should not be the basis for their retention (either way); and [c] we respect the co-equal judicial branch of government way too much to ever futz with it in this way! So it wasn't due to being "a bit naive or arrogant" that we on the pro-equality side were outspent in this fight and only offered up a minor defense. It's because it was a one-sided battle that never should have been turned into a de facto gay marriage war! Our first reaction was to drop our jaws, not put up our dukes!

We on the pro-equality side have lost in court. But we didn't turn around and seek impeachment, non-retention, or some other form of bench-removal. There's no real record of us doing this. Because it's not the way it's meant to work. When a majority body of justices goes against you, you don't stamp your feet and start a dangerous "activist courts" meme. You dig in, look at the arguments that lost, then reshape those same points so that you will win next time around.

But then again, we can do this, because we have winning arguments (which we'll demonstrate again today in federal appeals court). Since our opposition has nothing to show before the court, they need the retaliatory tactics and chilling memes.


#2: On the thoroughly partisan coalition that aided and abetted this anti-intellectual, anti-American attack on judicial independence:

"The key to our success is that everybody played well in the sandbox together. We had Iowa Family Policy Center Action. We had the Iowa Christian Alliance. We had Iowa Right to Life. We had the gun owners. We had the home-school educators. We had the property rights groups. We had Concerned Women for America. We had Eagle Forum. We had the Tea Party. We had the Republican Party. We had all these groups, and they all worked well together. They stayed focused on the ultimate goal.

On the national level, not only did we have some key political figures like (former Gov. Mike) Huckabee, (Newt) Gingrich, David Barton, (Gov.) Haley Barbour, (Gov. Tim) Pawlenty, and (former Sen.) Rick Santorum, but we had American Family Association, CitizenLink and the Family Research Council. We had American Values and the National Organization for Marriage. They all played well together. Everybody kept the focus. Nobody was concerned about who would get the ultimate credit. They knew that, ultimately, this might be the most important election of the entire country to rein in tyranny and embrace liberty.
"

So Vander Plaats makes it sound like this ragtag crew of independent thinkers came together for a nuanced discussion about jurisprudence. But come the frick on! On marriage equality, the groups and figures listed all fall on the ideological chart somewhere between "Absolutely no way!" and "I once sat out a heterosexual wedding because the bride was named Gay." So within this sandbox that Vander Plaats talks about is a clear, decided line that long ago picked gays' ring fingers as a vote-grabbing, money-churning, GOP-emboldening point of interest. This national coalition is constantly in search of a vehicle to push their collective anti-equality agenda. A vehicle like a state retention vote.

Then opposite this hyper-motivated, highly-funded, largely out-of-state coalition -- one that was solely focused on the single issue of same-sex marriage, oftentimes telling supporters that they had to cast a non-retention vote to send a message and/or appease God -- you had the ragtag "everyone else" coalition. There was no one unifying message on the "other side," since it included marriage equality supporters who supported the judges, marriage equality supporters who opposed retention for other reasons, indifferent voters, apathetic voters, gay marriage non-supporters who weren't involved with the "Iowa For Freedom" campaign (and therefore either retained or not for a myriad of other reasons), people who forgot to turn their ballot over, people who didn't give a damn enough to vote on retention, young voters who always turn out at disproportionately low rates (esp. in midterm elections), disinterested voters who blindly took advice from a friend or family member involved with the IFF campaign, etc., etc. So of course the deck was stacked towards non-retention!

If this Iowa retention vote would've played out in a sandbox truly concerned with justice, voters would have been encouraged to read the Varnum opinion in full, to watch the arguments presented before the court, and to listen to the judicial scholars who made clear cases for why we all must separate our personal whims from the court's treasured role. But IFF never asked this. Vander Plaats didn't want this. Iowa For Freedom simply wanted their box-dwellers to stir up a large enough sand cloud to obfuscate their way to a majority percentage.

Bob and team achieved their goal. But the unfortunate goal itself invalidated any possibility of actual success.

*Source for both quotes: Friday Five: Marriage Champion Bob Vander Plaats [Focus on the Family's CitizenLink]

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