Days and Slights: This Week in NOM (Jan. 1 - Jan. 7)
Dear NOM Watcher,
The National Organization For Marriage wants to seem prominent. This we know. They don't really need to hustle for funds the way other groups do, as they have secretive, monied pipelines that seem to be reliable so long as the organization seems viable. All they need to do is stay in the game, or at the very least give the impression that they are.
In terms of politics, what better way to "prove" viability than in influencing a presidential race?
I've thought from the very beginning that NOM wanted Rick Santorum at the top of the Republican ticket. After all, Santorum, after falling out of the spotlight in the period following his 2006 U.S. Senate loss, took his biggest step back in the "culture war" by partnering with NOM. Do you remember? That fundraising letter? It was in 2009, and it was a doozy. Rick used words like "bury" and "avalanche" and "grassfire" to highlight the supposed dangers held within gay people's ring fingers, and specifically pushed NOM as the bet way to counter the growing "threat." It was a big favor/coup for both sides. Santorum gave NOM credibility (in certain circles) and NOM gave Rick a way to get his name out during a lull period.
Plus I know that there are personal connections between some staffers and the candidate, something that came even more into light when Maggie Gallagher revealed last February that she had personally vetted a draft of the candidate's CPAC speech. Oh, and there's one more really big Gallagher/Santorum connection which we will discuss later. Hang on for that.
But the only problem in terms of NOM's desire to Rick-roll this GOP primary? Up until about a week ago, nobody seemed to care a lick about Santorum. So it wasn't like NOM could put all of its eggs in his candidacy, even if they strongly preferred his overall package. The field has been big and shifty all along. Pulling too much for one could pull them too far away from the eventual nominee, which would be death in the general election. They needed a way to stay strong but somewhat neutral, so that they could keep that much-needed viability, no matter who the nominee.
Which brings us to the much-ballyhooed NOM Marriage Pledge. Through this late summer conceit, NOM put the attention on their issues (i.e. the various and sundry ways to stop gay couples' benign happiness) instead of any one person. They knew most of the prominent candidates -- who are, unfortunately, still beholden to a Grand Old Party that sees anti-equality initiatives as needed for electoral success -- would sign on to such a doc. So that was NOM's big outreach of the fall: Securing the top signatures while remaining publicly posted on a fence. Above the fray. Above the mud. Above any specific allegiances.
Enter Ron Paul, stage right (but libertarian-leaning)
What NOM didn't count on was Ron Paul, perennial also-ran, catching on in a new way. Having not signed the NOM pledge, Paul is the one real wrench in their plan thus far. At least the only wrench with any real electoral chance. NOM can find something to like in all of the others, and will find a way to spin any other GOP candidate's general election prospects. But not Paul. A Paul nomination would mean a shutout for the group that has already declared the Congressman's personal marriage stance to be "worse…than President Obama's." A general election shutout would mean months of malaise, and would give the impression of a GOP that's not nearly as under NOM's thumb as NOM wants them to be.
So we got ads. Negative ads, naturally, since that's what we always see from NOM. They honed in on Paul, a 54-year-married man, branding him as "wrong" on marriage, as opposed to all of the other frontrunners, who they branded as "right" (with websites for both causes). Then they started pushing the message BIG TIME. NOM has already spent over $80,000 dollars on this sole cause, and it's only January 4. Paul still has viability in his candidacy (third in Iowa, second in evangelical support), so it's a certainty that NOM will spend even more cash and spill more ink trying to stop him. Because remember: They have to.
Paul negative ink only outmatched by Santorum love letters
As the calendar turned and the Paul attacks grew, so did the approachability of NOM's even truer dream. Around the new year, for the first time throughout the whole primary process, something odd happened: Rick Santorum actually started getting some attention. Attention that turned to some sense of consideration. Consideration that turned to a second place finish in Iowa. A second place finish in Iowa that turned NOM into, well, frankly -- a bunch of fanboys and fang urls.
Immediately after the Iowa caucus results began to crystalize, NOM and its staffers began penning love letters (and Tweets) to one candidate and one candidate alone. That man: Richard J. Santorum. Their star. Their dream candidate. Maggie Gallagher's instant, caucus night posts read so much like school girl love letters, I actually got a little uncomfortable reading them:
Other NOMmers were slightly less gushing, but still focused. Between caucus night and week's end, NOM contributed a whopping thirty posts to the NOM Blog, all uncritically focused on the new demigod who'd they always hoped to make President, but who only recently began stumping in a realm even approaching reality.
So where does this leave the others?
Bachmann is now gone, and flailing would be a generous description of the Perry campaign. Gingrich is sluggish. Really, it's Romney and Santorum and Paul that NOM has to care about, at least for this week. And we've already discussed Paul.
Since NOM is so clearly in the tank for the man who has vowed to invalidated all currently legal same-sex marriages and who has likened loving gay relationships to that which might exist between a man and a dog, it's been funny to watch the way they handle the much more likely victor, Mitt Romney. Their basic theme of the week: "*RICK SANTORUM* IS DOING WELL…and oh yeah, we like this other guy named Mitt or Glove or Catcher or something like that." Going back to that need to stay in the game in order to survive as an organization: NOM staffers know they have to keep Mitt on the radar and that they have to keep their obvious Santorum support noncommittal. But it's kind of like watching a bad teen flick where the pretty girl may very well be at the prom with the star quarterback, but she's secretly pining for the sweetly dorky, next door neighbor on the bleachers.
Not sure if the Romney campaign, which everyone in the know describes as being extremely perceptive, is also catching on to this clear-cut reality. But as someone who'll gladly divide the camps that so crudely work to divide certain kinds of American families (and who, by extension, divide our entire nation), I sincerely hope the overplayed hand will backfire on NOM in the event that someone other than their golden boy nabs the GOP nod.
Oh wait, I almost forgot
I told you in the intro that I knew of yet another connection between Santorum and Gallagher. So get this: Turns out that both of them donate to The Heights, an Opus Dei school in Maryland. Which is particularly interesting beyond the NOM connection, because Santorum has specifically denied that he's involved with the controversial, far-right prelature of the Catholic Church.
Also interesting: DOMA-defending lawyer Paul Clement is on that same donor roll. Coincidence? An odd one, if so.
Plus one last thing not related to primary politics…
Just minutes before I wrote this, I saw where Jennifer Roback Morse, who is on the National Organization for Marriage's payroll as head of their affiliate group the Ruth Institute, made it perfectly clear how far beyond same-sex marriage she'd like to take her advocacy. After spending a few paragraphs balking at a pair of lesbian parents and the mere possibility of that kind of family, Morse reaches this, much more sweeping conclusion:
"The correct result is to shut down the IVF clinics. They are generating injustices right and left. At the very least, ban gamete donation and sales." [SOURCE]
So if any of your straight friends (or you, the heterosexual reader) need help understanding why all of this stuff affects more than just LGBT people, look to things like this. For now, these groups are engaged in same-sex marriage because that's the reliable paycheck. But what next? What gets rolled back once this current "culture war" goes away? Is reproductive technology next? Banning divorce? Something else?
That's not me fear-mongering -- it's me listening to what they themselves say. Oh, and believing they actually mean it.
Until next week, my electoral collegians,
Good As You/NOM Exposed
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