I certainly understand your befuddlement at the "vote first, campaign afterward" phenomenon. This isn't the first time that this has happened in our community. The classic example was our community's response to Anita Bryant a generation ago.
What you have to understand is that in both cases, the people responsible for the timorous "campaign" at the start were very different from the people who led the "campaign afterward."
In both cases, the initial "campaign" was led by the best-funded and established individual "leaders" and organizations in the community – who ensured that the "campaign" was top-down, with an at best, luke warm message that many couldn't decipher, let alone get passionate about. There are two main reasons why each time the established community leaders ran such campaigns:
1) As the elite within our community, they typically have the least to complain about in our society, and so are not compelled to "rock the boat"; and
2) A no holds barred campaign – "calling out" all those political and religious leaders who equivocate on matters of equal rights – could end up embarrassing their political allies, particularly in the Democratic Party. After all, with only a few honorable exceptions, Democratic leaders are also guilty of not supporting full legal equality for LGBT people, not just the far right.
Most everyone else in the community (with the exception of a few loud-mouths such as ourselves), deferred to the judgment of their "betters," and passively gave contributions in response to the various fund appeals. There definitely is a class angle here, and it's important to note that the established leaders entered the jockeying for support within the community with huge advantages of built up apparatuses of offices, staffs, political connections, etc.
By contrast, almost all of the post-election rallies and marches (and the few pre-election ones) have been led by individuals with no previous political organizing experience. To say that they have bypassed most of the existing organizations is an understatement.
I for one know that the 20-somethings who contacted GLN for help also reached out to several other organizations besides us, who responded tepidly, if at all. I'm proud that we jumped in feet first immediately after getting their appeal, but that was the exception that proves the rule.
A successful campaign requires not only getting our community out into the streets and effectively utilizing the passionate strength of people who are fearful of loosing their rights, it also requires good, blunt messaging. (Our opponents were certainly clear, if untruthful, in the closing days of the California campaign, and our side just had a muddle.)
In our years' long campaigns against anti-gay organizations such as the Illinois Family Institute and Americans For Truth About Homosexuality here in the Chicago area, GLN has long refused to play by Marquis de Queensbury rules. Our position is that if you are a religious or political leader and you oppose legal equality (in marriage, employment or anything else) for a whole group of people, you are a bigot, plain and simple. For several years now, virtually every time IFI and AFTAH have held public events we have been there with a big banner that reads "Opposition to Equal Rights is BIGOTRY."
Using this messaging we have helped label these opponents to legal equality as bigots in the public mind, and thus made them "damaged goods" to many would-be supporters. I am convinced that this played a role in their thus far twice failing to get an anti-equal marriage measure on Illinois's ballot, let alone passing it.
This same strategy was what finally led to the demise o f Anita Bryant's "Save Our Children" campaign (and her career), and the dramatic wind down of hate radio hostess "Dr." Laura Schlessinger's career. In the former case, we very much had a "vote first, campaign later" phenomenon – Bryant did an enormous amount of harm before she was brought down. In the latter case, I'm proud that our "StopDrLaura" campaign nipped the problem in the bud before she did nearly as much damage.
The LGBT community is not monolithic. We have virtually every political tendency and faction you can imagine. What we've seen over the past few weeks are the young, unaffiliated folks, and "radicals" like GLN, taking the ball and running with it now that the established organizations, commanding far greater financial resources, have been found wanting.
All the best,
co-founder, Gay Liberation Network