Thursday, December 08, 2005

No on 901 Post Mortem Mockery

How Not To Run An Anti-Initiative Campaign

So, it's December 8th—the big day. From this day forward, anyone who wants to kill themselves slowly with cancer sticks in the state of Washington is going to have to take their cancer stick and all their foul cancer air either outside or onto an Indian reservation. Alternatively you could look at it as the beginning of bowling without coming home reeking of cigarettes. Whatever way you choose to perceive it, the will of 63.2467%* of those who voted in November is now being enforced.

By now I have clearly betrayed my loyalties on this matter, and many people have accused me of betraying my pure evil roots as well, but I can't help but be happy that this passed. Would the same people who are up at arms about this be equally concerned about protecting my right to make loud annoying screeeeeeeeeeking sounds in their presence? I think not. Listen, I proposed a non-legislative solution that would have been fair and equitable for everyone, but I guess it just didn't get enough press. But how much I'm going to enjoy going to restaurants and bowling alleys and not being assaulted by the stench of cigarette smoke isn't really the point of this post.

On this first day of strict anti-smoking enforcement, I'd like to take a moment to look back on the campaign of the opposition to I-901. Considering that 901 passed with the widest margin of any of 2005's ballot measures, I think it would be interesting to use the No on 901 campaign as an instructional example on how to lose a pro- or anti-initiative campaign.

From the anti-901 website:
Opponents spent over 1.5 million garnered from drug companies and special interest groups that funnel their money through The American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the American Lung Association. On the other hand we never got the financial backing or support from 99.9% of groups who's responsibility it is in this state to fight for small business owners. We didn't accept big tobacco money either.
Good job. You took the high ground. And it got you exactly nothing. Would dirty cancer dollars from the tobacco companies have produced lower quality commercials than the imaginary money you relied on? I think not. In the end, all you get from turning down (or not pursuing) dirty money is a warm feeling in your heart. That seems to be pretty much true across all politics, in fact. If you want to win, you need money, and if the enemy of your enemy has money, then they are your friend. Strike one.

From the "What I-901 is About" page on their website:
This is not a debate on the merits of smoking.
Hmm. Considering that the ballot title was the following:
This measure would prohibit smoking in buildings and vehicles open to the public and places of employment, including areas within 25 feet of doorways and ventilation openings unless a lesser distance is approved.
I would say that it in fact was a debate about the merits of smoking. Specifically about the merits of smoking indoors, thus forcing potentially unwilling bystanders and employees of businesses to enjoy your delicious aroma. Denying the primary subject matter does little to advance one's cause. Strike two.

SAY NO TO MORE TAXES! | VOTE NO ON 901Now, I don't have any evidence to support that this final point was the doing of the official No on 901 campaign, but then again if you were engaging in such tactics you wouldn't want it to be obvious. I'm talking about the sign pictured at right. It reads:
Again, this is not pictured anywhere in the No on 901's Posters page, so I don't know who was actually responsible for these, but I saw quite a few of them in the Seattle area. In case you're not sure—no, I-901 in fact had nothing whatsoever to do with taxes. So these well-constructed signs were essentially attempting to pull a fast one on the unsuspecting voters. Granted, one would have to be pretty much a complete illiterate to fall for this, as the true purpose of the initiative is printed right on the ballot, but considering the condition of our state's public education system, I can see why they tried this tactic. Still though, the deceptive posters probably turned more people off than the few people they may have fooled. Strike three.

So, to recap the main points:
  • Don't take money from your #1 deep-pocketed ally.
  • Refuse to argue the merits of the initiative.
  • Completely and blatantly misrepresent the initiative.
The No on 901 campaign followed all of these guidelines quite well, and succeeded in convincing approximately three people to change their minds and vote against the initiative. Perhaps the entire No on 901 campaign was actually a smokescreen put in place by the pro-901 lobby, as a tricky way to assure that their initiative would win by a wide margin. In any case, there are surely plenty of ways that this information can be put into practice in the future, and I can sleep easy tonight knowing that by providing this information I may have helped make politics even slimier.

* As a side note, it is laughable to me that they carry the percentage out to four decimal places. That's a precision of 18 votes statewide. Given what we learned from the 2004 election, the official results might not even be accurate to within 1,000 votes of what it should legally be, let alone 18.
Categories: News, Local, Politics


Anonymous Soini said...

I-901 is also a water conservation bill! I will no longer need to shower after coming home from Denny's, most bowling alleys, McCormick's etc.

11:41 AM, December 09, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't that nice that you, in your arrogance, feel you should be able to tell a private business owner how to run their business. Typical snotty, arrogance.

I have employees that smoked in the pressroom where smoke did not drift over to the offices. Now they have to smoke in the flood control behind the office or in the middle of main street to get 25 feet away.

Good job. You got what you wanted.

First they came for the smoker...
First they came for the blogger...
First they came for the junk mail collector...
First they came for the (you fill in the blank)...

I am amazed 36.7533 percent actually voted for this, especially since only 20 percent of the population smokes anymore.

At least 16.7533 percent of the population read the entire initiative and knew it was a bad precedent.

Get your tape measurer with the laser beam and you can go around and report all those evil smokers.

And no, I wouldn't classify you as pure evil. Just arrogant.

2:16 PM, December 12, 2005  
Anonymous Gromit said...

I was directed to this post from

Had the NoOn901 folks taken a single dime of "Big Tobacco" money, assuming they would have given any (likely they wouldn't for PR reasons below), the Yes side would have a field day painting us as pawns of the evil overlord only interested in killing more people, especially the poor children.

Additionally the Yes side likely received far more than the $1.5m they received as their fund raisers would have had a face to battle instead of a cause.

Big Tobacco was never approached for help and likely would not have given if asked. They are in their own battle to save they're collective butts (pun not intended) from more lawsuits which seem to spring up every day. Had they given anything, including 'in-kind' donations of consulting/advice, this would come back to haunt them as some sort of continuing practice to harm the world, especially the children.

Big Tobacco no longer have big pockets. Yes, it can be argued that they stood to lose the most with 901, but sometimes you just have to let the punches land where they will. Funding the initiative would have merely prolonged the agony, even if it would have provided a bit more revenue. They know their time is limited and can only watch as they lose lose market here at home and can only look now to increase it abroad.

I-901 was NOT just about smoking. It did nothing to outlaw smoking. It did nothing to stop the sale of tobacco.

I am a non-smoker and I detest cigarette smoke. I did not go to restaurants where they allowed smoking. I rarely went to bars where there was smoking, and if I did it was to meet up with people and then we usually found another place to go very soon. But, you know, it's a legal product consumed (mostly) by people of legal age: Give them a place to smoke it! I also don't like walking down the sidewalk and have to walk through a gauntlet of smokers standing outside of the bar.

Instead of a place letting you to make really loud annoying screeeeeeeeeking sounds inside where we don't have to put up with it, where we could choose not to go listen if we didn't want to hear it, we're now forced to listen to you do it everywhere outside. If the proprietor thought he would lose money by allowing screekers, he would not let them do so inside; but if he thought there was a niche market you would be more than welcome, I'm sure.

901 was about prohibiting business and property owners from allowing the consumption of a legal product on its premises.

If it were not so, the authors would have given some sort of exemption to, say, cigar lounges where everyone there clearly chooses to be smoking or at least does not mind the smoke.

Perhaps the campaign should have "VOTE PRO-CHOICE", as in, allow people to chose whether they wanted to visit smoke-filled places and allow business owners the choice of whether to allow smokers. We decided instead to go with a less politically-charged, albeit less effective, rallying cry.

Thank you for realizing the signs were not from the NoOn901 campaign itself. I think that if anything they likely hurt the cause as if someone was on the metaphorical fence, saw the sign and went home to read the initiative, they would have voted No out of disgust. Its designers do have a minor point, though, in that as tobacco use declines the tax revenue will have to be made up from another source, so my fellow non-smokers will have to face a tax increase in some form that we formerly did not have to pay.

2:35 PM, December 12, 2005  
Blogger Skor Grimm said...

anonymous, you sound a little tense. Are you suffering from withdrawal?

2:36 PM, December 12, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no skor, I don't smoke. I just see first hand the arrogance of this initiative as a private business owner that hires smokers. They are rarely sick, and I'm serious; want to work, and are really nice people. Not like the low-life they show on the news.

7:36 AM, December 13, 2005  
Anonymous liberty4all said...

If Dec 7, 1941, was a day that will live in infamy, Dec 8, 2005, was the day democracy triumphed over liberty.

8:49 AM, December 13, 2005  

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