What is Joe Solmonese smoking? The President of the Human Right Campaign sent out a fundraising email Wednesday morning that appears to blame the possible loss of the Democrats majority in Congress on District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional - and on the National Organization for Marriage:
"Extremists’ hatred is surging in the wake of the Prop. 8 decision. The National Organization for Marriage is spreading vicious anti-gay lies. Control of Congress could be up in the air."
I realize that fear-based fundraising letters are a traditional tactic to draw attention to one's cause. In this case, HRC's political action committee is trying to raise money for their designated races – Democrats Tarryl Clark (challenging Rep. Michele Bachmann), the terrific LGBT ally Patrick Murphy who's lead the House repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Rep. Joe Sestak from Pennsylvania, openly gay Providence, Rhode Island Mayor David Cicilline, longtime LGBT ally Sen. Russ Feingold, and Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias who is running for Senate.
The problem is - HRC may have just provided opponents of LGBT equality talking points and quotes. Not to mention that HRC is just plain wrong.
First of all, as Prop8TrialTracker pointed out following NOM's summer bus tour was a "flop" and failed to generate "traditional marriage" crowds as they expected. Additionally, Prop8TrialTracker humorously noted how NOM used stock images for those glowing families they purport to represent. At the end of the day, NOM came off as a failure, no matter how many "vicious anti-gay lies" they spread.
But most importantly, since it happened in HRC's backyard - NOM lost the ONLY race they focused on during Tuesday's primaries. Here's MetroWeekly's headline: "Thomas Trounces Hunter Ward 5 race gives clear win to marriage-equality supporter, despite NOM support for challenger."
But there's more. Here's blogger Adam Bink from OpenLeft.com:
“Even in what many considered to be a very tough district [Ward 5] for a sitting councilmember to support the freedom to marry for same-sex couples, where NOM went all in for their candidate, Delano Hunter got a smaller percentage of the vote than I’ve seen dead people get for being on the ballot. Seven out of seven DC Councilmembers who voted for the freedom to marry less than a year ago were either re-elected or elected to higher office, even in districts with what conventional wisdom would call tough electorates. That says something about how elected officials can support equality and be safe, and how NOM’s last stand didn’t just fail, it laughed them out of town.”
Geoff Kor, executive director of Equality California, would not comment on HRC's fundraising letter, but did respond to questions about the premise. Kors wrote in an email:
"There hasn’t been a backlash as a result of Judge Walker’s decision overturning Prop 8. In fact, we have seen just the opposite as more and more people of both parties have announced their support of marriage equality.
Support for equality doesn’t hurt candidates, it helps them. We have seen that again and again. Not a single legislator who voted for marriage equality lost their re-election bid in California. But several who voted against marriage equality lost their next race against candidates who supported full equality.
Equality California’s PAC has long had a policy of only supporting candidates who are 100% in support of equality for the entire LGBT community and we have more endorsed candidates this year than ever before, including our Senator who now supports marriage equality — Barbara Boxer. We need to make it clear that support for equality is good politics, as well as morally correct.
NOM has failed repeatedly in their efforts to defeat incumbents who have stood with us. If the Democrats lose control of Congress it will be — even if unfairly– due to the economy, not due to support of LGBT equality. If anything, the lack of progress on promises such as passing ENDA [Employment Non-Discrimination Act] and repealing DOMA [Defense of Marriage Act] may cause LGBT people and those who support equality not to vote. That is why I believe [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid is finally agreeing to have a vote on DADT [Don't Ask, Don't Tell] repeal. They need us.
The ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional and support for LGBT rights is not even a minor factor in why Dems are expected to loss seats and possibly control of Congress. It would be a disaster for our movement if the story of this election was that support for marriage equality and other LGBT rights cost Dems seats as that will make politicians less likely to support our rights moving forward. And it is imperative that we make it clear that that isn’t true – no matter what NOM says."
In fact, the Republican Party is splitting over social issues, including some within the various anti-big government tea party groups. And certainly the legal star power of former Solicitor General and Prop 8 federal challenger Ted Olson changed many Republican minds and allowed other Republicans, straight and gay, to finally come out of the closet in support of marriage equality.
Recently out GOP strategist Ken Mehlman is one of the star hosts of this weekend's mega New York fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the group sponsoring the federal Prop 8 trial. Robert A. Levy, chair of the Cato Institute (who sits on the board of the conservative Federalist Society) and Margaret Hoover, Fox News Contributor who served in the George W. Bush White House, also sit on the AFER board.
Additionally, not only has the Log Cabin Republicans federal trial on Don't Ask, Don't Tell help introduce America to straight Republican attorney Dan Woods of who is also fighting for LGBT equality, but Log Cabin Republicans new executive director R. Clarke Cooper just appeared at the RNC “Fire Pelosi” bus tour launch in Washington DC Wednesday morning. The emcee for the event was DC State Party Chairman and former Log Cabin Republican Chair, Bob Kabel who introduced RNC chair Michael Steele and Rep. Pete Sessions. Cooper says the focus of the "Fire Pelosi" tour is the economy, not social issues. In response to the HRC fundraising letter, Cooper said: “Ken Mehlman is helping raise funds for AFER to support marriage equality. Further, Ken is helping me reach out to Republicans on equality measures writ large.”
Meanwhile, previously politically powerful antigay religious such as Family Research Council head Tony Perkins is trying to get Sen. John Cornyn not to appear at Log Cabin's big gala in DC on Sept. 22 (same day as AFER's fundraiser in NYC). In a letter to Cornyn, Perkins writes that it is “deeply troubling” that Cornyn will “lend [his] credibility to the organization" that works for marriage equality and DADT, which Cornyn opposes. But, the senator told Scripps Howard News Service , he hopes to find common ground. Also scheduled to attend the LCR gala are Sessions, Rep. Joseph Cao of Louisiana , Rep. Charles Djou of Hawaii , Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Rep. Judy Biggert of Illinois. (UPDATE: Cornyn is still attending, despite the Perkins letter.)
Meanwhile, Republican political leaders, who are also trying to find common ground with the new tea party people, say the primary win of "no-masturbation" Christine O'Donnell in Delaware Tuesday night may have deprived the Republicans of their chance to recapture the US Senate.
We'll see. A lot can happen between now and November 2 – just 48 days away. But without the Prop 8 religious networks connected by Yes on 8 campaign managers Frank Schubert and Jeff Flint - and the combined Mormon, Catholic and evangelical money to back them, I don't know just how effective NOM will be in the 2010 election cycle. And I don't know if the RNC wants to risk having marriage equality be a campaign wedge issue, either. I suspect that Mehlman and even Karl Rove, who lead the grandly divisive 2004 campaign using marriage equality as the tip of the spear, is now saying sheath that sword this election.
We'll see. Turnout is what matters, period.