March 30, 2012

National Organization For Marriage Reveals Campaign Dirty Secrets


The National Organization for Marriage Steals Karl Rove’s 2004 Playbook

The Huffington Post said “NOM's Malodorous Methods Fan the Flames of Hate,” and thegrio.com said “Race-baiting to stop marriage equality is wrong,” and  policymic.com said “Secret Docs Show National Organization for Marriage Aims for Gay vs. Black Social Warfare.” The New York Times was much more subdued, with “The Anti-Marriage Battle Plan.”

The National Organization for Marriage wanted to exploit racial tensions between reliably Democratic voters, to advance their anti-gay marriage campaigns. I didn’t find the news particularly shocking, though I did find the campaign strategy disgusting and amoral.

I first saw it in my local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle. When I read the story, I felt a strong sense of déjà vu. I knew that I’d read about this before. I knew that I’d heard about this desperate strategy, and then it came back to me - Karl Rove’s hail Mary pass to win the 2004 Presidential election - was similarly desperate, divisive, amoral.

Ancient History - Election 2000

In the presidential election ushering in the new millennium, Vice President Al Gore and the Texas Governor, George W. Bush, faced off in the general election. In a race that was too close to call, the US Supreme Court stepped in and anointed the Texas governor the winner. That election, and the months leading up to the 2000 election, really soured me on politics.

During the campaign we heard about vouchers for school, and lock boxes for retirement accounts. We heard that government wasn’t good at anything, while President Bill Clinton was cooped up out of sight in the White House, because the Vice President felt he was a campaign liability.

In the late 1990’s, I didn’t like the things I had started hearing Republicans talk about. The GOP always had moderate and liberal factions within the party, like New York’s Nelson Rockefeller and George Pataki, and Massachusetts’ William Weld, and New Jersey’s Tom Kean. The electorate seemed to be getting more conservative, and I didn’t like it. I had vowed to myself that I wasn’t going to support a candidate, or a party, that was anti-gay anymore.

As election season wore on, I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for Al Gore. Despite his experience, there was something inexplicable that I didn’t like about him. He seemed stiff and wooden, as well as pedantic. I couldn’t imagine him as our president.

My old friend Steve Gunderson, a former Republican Congressman, and some other high profile LGBT leaders, met with the Texas governor to discuss gay issues in the summer of 2000. Steve said that he trusted Bush, and that he had no problem supporting him. Despite what Steve said, I couldn’t vote for Bush either. I thought the world of his father, but felt that he was a lightweight in comparison.

I remained very conflicted about who to vote for that year, and I decided to vote for Ralph Nader. I had voted for the Republican nominee in every election, for any office, regardless of whether they were worthy candidates - because that’s what I was trained to do in my family. You might think “that’s crazy” or that I’m joking, and I promise you that I’m not. I don’t regret that I voted for Nader one bit. I felt he was the best candidate for the job, and no one has convinced me otherwise.

More Ancient History - Election 2004

In the next presidential election of 2004, I was an enthusiastic supporter of Senator John Kerry. I really thought his election would be a slam dunk. With war being waged in two countries, and Bush’s popularity sinking to all-time lows, the election was tailor-made for a Democrat to win the White House, and I was happy to support the Massachusetts Senator. John Kerry didn’t catch on with the electorate, and Bush was miraculously re-elected.

Bush campaign manager Karl Rove orchestrated the improbable win. Most political analysts agree that inflaming voter sentiment against gay marriage, which was a hot button issue throughout the country that year, was the catalyst to mobilize the extreme right into turning out in record numbers to vote for Bush and reject gay marriage.

In Dan Gilgoff’s 2007 book The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America Are Winning the Culture War, he wrote:

Despite the unprecedented get-out-the-vote efforts being organized by evangelical groups like Focus on the Family, the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign wasn't taking any chances. After the 2000 election debacle, which saw Bush lose the popular vote, White House political don Karl Rove estimated publicly that 4 million white evangelical voters had stayed home on Election Day 2000. He vowed to reinvigorate them for 2004. No other demographic that size would consistently pull the Republican lever.

Officials inside Focus on the Family's public policy shop argued that they had been much less gung-ho about mobilizing evangelical voters in 2000 than in 2004 because candidate Bush was something of an unknown quantity; he promoted "compassionate conservatism" and a "big tent" GOP rather than play up antiabortion and antigay rights themes. "We didn't really know George Bush till he was inaugurated," said Focus on the Family public policy director Tom Minnery. "At that inauguration, he had Franklin Graham ... there were church hymns being sung. It was a Christian service was what it was."

I think it’s disgraceful to promote hatred and bigotry to win an election. Most people will say “that’s politics,” and I say that’s bullshit. The man who said that he’s “a uniter and not a divider,” knowingly spread false statements and rumors to deny many American’s basic civil rights.

Marriage Equality and Election 2012

Fast forward to 2012, and lo and behold, other right-wing extremist organizations are trying to copy a page out of Karl Rove’s playbook, by pitting groups against each other. In the San Francisco Chronicle story “Prop. 8 group pitted blacks, Latinos against gays,” the story revealed that 2009 campaign documents used in the anti-gay marriage campaign in Maine, released by a federal judge, outlined the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) strategy to win by exploiting race, and spreading lies, by pitting gay voters against Black and Latino voters.

Reporter Carolyn Lochead wrote:

The documents describe a strategy to make opposition to same-sex marriage "a key badge of Latino identity" and "a badge of youth rebellion to conformist assimilation to the bad side of 'Anglo' culture."

The group's goal, according to the documents, is to "drive a wedge between gays and blacks - two key Democratic constituencies," and find "glamorous, young Latinos and Latinas, especially artists, actors, musicians, athletes, writers and other celebrities willing to stand up for marriage."

So it’s clear that telling the truth, and running a campaign that’s about the issues, isn’t important to the likes of a hate group like NOM. I’m not surprised at all by this, and I doubt you’re surprised either. I’m just hoping that more voters and decision makers will wake up to the travesty that is NOM, and that women, people of color, and the LGBT community, join together to reject the bullshit. It’s fairly easy to counter the propaganda that NOM sells to the public, if we could get the voters to listen.


straight talk in a queer world.


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