The Social-Network Effect That Is Helping Legalize Gay Marriage

Ari Wallach, the strategist known as one of the minds behind such work as Samuel L. Jackson's pro-Obama "Wake the F___ Up" video, Sarah Silverman's profane voter ID ads, and 2008's The Great Schlep, helped launch Friendfactor, a celebrity-celebrated political effort to make the most of the social bonds between Americans of all sexual identities.

One lesson he's picked up, Wallach says, is that "20- and 30-year-olds don't want to take political action on behalf of organizations anymore. Their brand allegiance has shifted from vertical, broadcast brands to hyperlocal" -- friends, co-workers, neighbors. Amicus makes peer-to-peer connections possible on that level, and not only is the tool not branded as Amicus when volunteers are using it, it's sometimes not even branded with the name of the organization that's providing supporters with an organizing channel. In Washington, Amicus and other tools were simply packaged as Marriage Hero. "I see in Amicus the future of political parties, more than I see the future of political parties at the DNC or the RNC," Wallach says. Maybe, maybe not, but it's not difficult to imagine that institutions now framed around partisan dichotomies might be reshaped with fuller knowledge of the likes, interests, and friendships of the American electorate.

Our politics, as practiced by real-live humans, is rarely quite as clean as our partisanship suggests. Lowell Weicker ended up ending his career as an independent. For that matter, so did Joe Lieberman. People are complicated. Just ask their friends.

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Nancy Scola is a writer based in New York. She has written for New York, Salon, and Seed, and is a frequent contributor to The American Prospect.

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