Days and Slights: This Week in NOM (Jan. 29 - Feb. 4)
Dear NOM Watcher,
After years of peeping this whole "culture war" circus, I can honestly say I've never seen a more active time in the marriage equality fight than right now. It seems that every day there is a new bill, hearing, petition, veto threat, or other development on the historical horizon. It's something that can get quite overwhelming for an obsessive like myself, who feels a strong need to hear just how, exactly, the opposition is messaging their discrimination in any given state.
On that last point, it's been really interesting to see the way NOM is handling this stacked slate of marriage battles. Since the "protect marriage" movement and its other groups has pretty much handed the keys over to NOM and are now letting that one org. drive the fight even in states where they have absolutely no connection, NOM has no choice but to find unique ways that somehow makes the local fight seem tinged with regional flavor. In fact, I think I just saw Brian Brown over at a Broadway theatre workshop on American regional accents, in prep for his autumn media hits. Chairman John Eastman would've joined, but he was busy learning how to cook our nation's provincial delicacies. And Maggie's just busy collecting local college sweatshirts to wear at fall rallies.
Although even more compelling than their attempts to tap into local color…
…is how they are messaging each individual state. In states where the legislature is working to pass a ban, NOM of course presents that as the proper course of action. But when a state body is pushing a marriage equality bill, those lawmakers are all of a sudden acting outside the public interest. There's always time for a ban, in NOM's eyes, but a proactive attempt to pass equality is always shunned as a waste of time and resources. This despite the obvious differentiation in merit.
Or there's the corporate America factor. At times when businesses have in some way helped NOM's efforts, those businesses are praised as good, Godly, and in need of NOM support (see their recent call to support Chick-fil-A, for one). But when a mega biz like Starbucks steps up to does right by their state, and therefore their national customer base? Well, wouldn't you know? All of a sudden, that business is unfairly taking sides in a state and national conversation, with NOM threatening aggressive action against them.
With their state-by-state drop-ins, NOM's also been shown glaringly obvious hypocrisy in terms of their own principles. For instance, we all know NOM never, ever, ever supports civil unions, either as an organization or as individual speakers. However, in states like New Hampshire, where NOM knows that a full-out return to inequality is not politically palatable but some middle ground might be, they suddenly find within their hearts some way to support civil unions. They call it a "compromise," even though we saw last year both in Rhode Island and Illinois that such "compromise" is never on their table when they think they can achieve a larger sweep.
To me, this "all things to all people" element is going to be key to conquering NOM is 2012. They have never faced so many fights at one time. I think if we are smart and show how much this one, secretly funded group is pulling the strings of this fight, we can really connect with the public and show how contrived their whole movement really is. In every state, we on the pro-equality side have a large team of local support, with the outside help building on (and deferring to) the great work that has been done. But this is not the case on the other side. In most states, NOM brings in their usual team (most always headed by California's Schubert Flint Public Affairs) and completely trumps whatever that state had going on before. NOM doesn't build on the grassroots infrastructure: They mow over it and replace it with NOM-branded astroturf. Sure, they keep some of the more willingly pragmatic local voices around and coach them in the NOMmy way. But at the same time, they also work in obvious, concerted ways to lower some of the voices that were prominent before they came around (something even folks on the other side have admitted to me!!).
We must note this stuff as it unfolds, keeping an even closer eye on this small organization and their outsized influence in each of our states. This is probably going to shape up to be the most important year we'll ever have in terms of turning the tide on NOM and the marriage conversation in general. If we pay attention, we will win.
Maryland, Iowa, New Jersey, Washington, and Florida. This week, NOM sent out action alerts in each one of the aforementioned states, pumping readers for support and (especially) cash behind some pretense of a reason. In Washington and Maryland, the alerts were build around obvious asks pertaining to those state's marriage bills. But in the other states, things were a little odder. And clumsier.
In NJ, there was some call to stop a marriage bill and continued demand for Gov. Chris Christie to veto the same. However, there was also a call to stop an openly gay judge that Gov. Christie recently nominated. That judge's "sin," as you probably guessed, was little more than personally supporting marriage equality. But since he's referenced past historical civil rights situations in his assessments of our nation's current state of affairs -- imagine that, a perceptive judge! -- NOM is outraged -- OUTRAGED!!! -- that this qualified man might get a chance to advance his career. They want him stopped.
In Iowa, NOM's alert was particularly laughable. They, the D.C. special interest group with no ties to Iowa, completely overlooked the two years of out-of-state onslaughts they have directed at the state, its legislature, its judicial elections, and its overall support for marriage equality. Instead of focusing on this, their own house of PAC-y cards, NOM proceeded to accuse pro-LGBT special interests of working to "control Iowa politics." Which makes me think of more than just the usual pot/kettle setup, even -- this one's more like lemonade accusing water of being wet, even as it's actively souring a state's political pool!
Then there was Florida. NOM took the opportunity to capitalize on Tuesday night's primary in the Sunshine State by making a convoluted point about the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The idea was to scare Floridians into thinking that President Obama and Democratic Senators are soon to "knock the doors down and begin their assault on marriage in all 50 states" if brave NOM supporters don't step in and find a way to make the patently unconditional DOMA somehow more legally sound and historically viable. The overall effort will of course fail, as DOMA is, quite happily, on its last ropes. But that they opportunistically targeted Florida as a way to piggyback on the GOP primary just speaks to the cynical game-playing that has come to define NOM.
(*all of the above images come from the respective NOM Action Alerts)
My big question at this point is….
…why are they being so silent about North Carolina? That state has a marriage ban on the ballot in the May primary, which is sooner than any other. But very few peeps have we heard from NOM. Why is that?
Are they overconfident that they'll win and therefore don't think they need to waste resources? This possibility doesn't hold water with me, because we all know NOM wants to take credit for a win -- any win. Sealing up the South would seem to be very press-releasable.
Could they be fearful they will lose this unique contest (where there's a Democratic gubernatorial primary) and therefore don't want the taint of a loss? Well that seems unlikely, too, since this one will be far from an easy victory for our side.
Do they have an objection to Tar Heels? No, that doesn't seem possible, considering the molasses-like speed with which they drag their feet on equality.
So what the heck is it? Why can't NC get any NOM love? Could it be something too revelatory that the ban's overheated stewards have already said?
NOM bucks a bright Star
All right, we gotta talk about Starbucks for a second. As you surely heard (and as I've already touched on), NOM came out this week against the coffee giant, suggesting that the House that Frappucinos Built is somehow being radical by standing up and supporting the marriage rights of same-sex couples. NOM went so far as to say Starbucks is actually undermining diversity by taking this "gratuitous leap into a hot button culture war issue."
The obvious truth is that NOM would be bouncing off the walls like a Venti-caffeinated toddler if Starbucks had instead come out for their regressive cause. Let's get real here: This isn't about staying neutral. NOM is ticked because Starbucks -- just like Amazon, Microsoft, Nike, Google, etc -- is forcing them to realize just how behind the times they truly are. NOM knows how beloved Starbucks is with a wide swath of the U.S. population, and knows that this kind of support drives home a very powerful message in the minds of the masses. And what's so particularly powerful about this kind of message is that it's so benign. Starbucks hasn't flown a Pride flag or offered a two bride latte special. They have simply said, "We stand for this -- now what can I get you to drink?"
And that, the ease and relative non-controversy of it all, is what keeps NOM up at night in ways that even a triple shot of espresso could never do.
Until next week, my hot cups of peace,
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