The Rise and Fall of the National Organization for Marriage

WaPo’s ‘Right Turn’ on NOM’s increasing lack of turns

November 26, 2013, by Jeremy Hooper, Guest Contributor

The language was so pointed and doomsaying that I had to look twice to make sure I didn't write it.  

But no, it did not, in fact come from me.  Instead, it was The Washington Post's resident conservative commentator, Jennifer Rubin, who delivered the takedown.  A snip, in case you missed it:

Washington Post, National Organization for MarriageLike a candidate losing every primary, you wonder how long the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) can hold on. Buzzfeed reports: “One of the nation’s leading organizations opposed to same-sex couples’ marriage rights found itself in the red at the end of a year in which it found itself on the losing end of four major state marriage fights, federal records show.” It’s now in the red to the tune of more than a million dollars.

What exactly does NOM do as voters in state after state decide to expand marriage to gay couples? There aren’t enough states for a constitutional amendment. It’s no longer a matter of judicial activism, but a sea change in public opinion that is propelling the legal shift. How many contests does NOM lose before it — or its donors — figures out the argument is not going to carry the day?

KEEP READING: The marriage mission [WaPo]

What I find so astounding about Rubin's piece is how little room she leaves for a second opinion.  It's not like she's on the fence about whether or not NOM has been effective or whether or not it can go on as it has in the past.  Instead, Rubin is pretty much like, "yeah, let's stick a fork in these guys."  NOM's inevitable demise is, to Rubin as to us, a fait accompli.

This is the kind of obstacle—one of many, when talking about NOM circa the fall of 2013—that is just plain insurmountable.  Not only is this organization losing fight after fight and bleeding dollar after dollar, but NOM has cultivated a reality in which politicos on both sides have all but written them off.  This intellectual failure is even more damning than the shortcomings in infrastructure.  It's one thing for someone like me, a commentator who's been calling out NOM since the day of its launch and who is eager to bask in the Schadenfreude of its shortfalls, to run through the halls shouting the good news of NOM's unraveling.  When someone like Jennifer Rubin, who was likely once (if not still) rooting for NOM to succeed, does it right there in an outlet like The Washington Post?  It's simply impossible to dismiss that as an activist or agenda-driven position.  And this is especially true when the takedown comes from a fellow conservative like Rubin, since America's right-leaning commentariat is famous for staying on message and not going after its own. 

For another kind of group focused on another kind of topic, this less-than-fortunate set of circumstances might serve as a great opportunity for a "Phoenix rising" followup.  The "darkest before dawn" concept does have legs, and America loves a good comeback story.

The difference here is that almost no one is rooting for NOM to comeback.  This isn't an organization that simply suffered under bad leadership (though it had it) or maybe a few fumbles (though there were many).  No, no—this is an organization that is failing because it always should have been a failure.  This is a contrived organization that never should have existed in the first place.  Maggie Gallagher and Robert George conceived NOM using deeply discriminatory and highly offensive gametes.  Its fate was written in its birth.  

But while NOM was destined to sink, it was up to us to connect the dots, so connect those dots we did.  We stood up, spoke out, and pushed back.  We refused to let NOM define us in the way that it wanted, and we instead defined NOM. Every one of the pro-equality movement's gains have shined an even brighter light on this truth, to the point where even laypeople with little interest in politics understand the holes in NOM's thinking and, increasingly, can voice capable arguments that cut down NOM's own.  Most all of what they say as rebuttal sounds downright silly because it, in fact, is.  People get that; NOM won't be able to overcome that.      

NOM isn't an organization that simply lost a battle, experienced a weak quarter, or made a wrong move—this is an organization that lost the people.  An organization that is even losing its own people.