"The Strategic Goal of This Project is to Drive a Wedge Between Gays and Blacks"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 27 2012 10:20 AM

"The Strategic Goal of This Project is to Drive a Wedge Between Gays and Blacks"

Ben Smith got the first look at some internal National Organization for Marriage docs released during the discovery process of NOM and American Principles in Action v. Walter McKee. NOM's 2008-2009 board update is one of those items that takes an obvious strategy and puts it in even-more-obvious color. NOM's response, in part:

We have worked with prominent African-American and Hispanic leaders, including Dr. Aveeda King, Bishop George McKinney of the COGIC Church, Bishop Harry Jackson and the New York State Senator Reverend Rubén Díaz Sr., all of whom share our concern about protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

NOM's co-founder Maggie Gallagher chimed in. "'Secret documents prove NOM plans to reach out to black, latino leaders to fight gay marriage!'" she said. "'NOM thinks gay marriage NOT a civil right!'"—Must be a slow news day over at Buzzfeed."

Maybe it was, but here's the relevant stuff. The "Sideswiping Obama" project:

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Did you hear more about any of this in 2009? Now you know why. But the coalition-building stuff, as Smith points out, is even more useful.

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Does anyone else raise an eyebrow at "pan-American"? The title of the split-the-blacks-from-the-Dems strategy is more resonant.

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This was a multifaceted strategy. Gay marriage activists have trucked awfully far on the "civil rights" message, and won over the sorts of voters who don't like to consider themselves anti-civil rights. How to fix that?

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How much was all of this going to cost? A 2009 strategy document enumerated the goals of the "Not A Civil Rights Issue" project and estimated a $1.5 million price tag.

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The next question: Did this work? It's been nearly three years since the memo went out. The answer: Not really. If there's some leading edge of black bloggers changing the conversation on gay marriage, it hasn't mattered at all; it hasn't trickled into mainstream conversation. If New York was a key state to marshall black voters against gay marriage, that didn't pan out. NOM's had success in winning over black spokespeople, like Maryland's Bishop Harry Jackson.

But for all the strategizing, I don't see what NOM, in the short-term, was able to win.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.