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The Closing Of The CPAC Mind

The decision of the American Conservative Union to bar GOProud from next year’s Conservative Political Action Conference has reignited a controversy that started when they first invited the group two years ago. Andrew Breitbart and Roger L. Simon are perhaps the most well-known conservatives to announce that they will not attend CPAC next year if the ban stands, and a meeting today between ACU officials and one of the heads of GOProud does not seem to have gone well at all:

The new chairman of the American Conservative Union, Al Cardenas, had hoped to calm last year’s distracting storm over gay rights.

It’s not going so well.

Cardenas met today, I’m told, with the executive director of the gay conservative group GOProud, Jimmy LaSalvia. It was, a person briefed on the event said, “not a good meeting.” The representatives of GOProud were furious to learn from WorldNetDaily and The Daily Caller that they’d been dropped from the organization

GOProud and it’s supporters were also likely none-to-thrilled by comments made by Cardenas’s wife during an exchange on Facebook last week:

No, you are right, they are not hiding in shame anymore—they are in our faces with public display of affection, gay parades,gay rallies, non-stop bombardment!!!As if that is not enough, now they are seeking to make constitutional changes. The audacity!!!They don’t represent a threat to me persnally, but to society in general. They threaten the moral fiber of our society…… If I had a child who was a drug addict, I would still love him to death, but that does not mean I have accept or condone the bad behavior

Now, comments like these aren’t all that surprising when coming from evangelical “family values” conservatives. What’s been interesting, though, is the extent to which the ACU decision has been subjected to condemnation across the conservative movement, uniting people who have disagreements of their own. Stephen Green, Charlie Martin, Gabriel Malor, Jeff Dunetz, and Joy McCann have all weighed in expressing their disappointment with the ACU’s decision to bend to the pressure of groups like the Family Research Council to ban a group that, outside of the fact that they happen to by gay, is as conservative as any other group attending CPAC.

Alana Goodman at Commentary warns that the ACU is establishing a bad precedent by giving in to outside pressure:

By yielding to the protests of one of these blocs, CPAC is declaring open season on all of its co-sponsors. The libertarians can demand the Keep America Safe be cut, the value voters can protest the Campaign for Liberty, and so on.

This is already beginning to happen to some extent. In addition to its decision on GoProud, CPAC also considered banning anti-sharia crusader David Horowitz from co-sponsoring the event, after other activists complained about him. In the end, CPAC decided to allow him to participate. But what if Horowitz’s critics come back with an even stronger campaign against him next year? Would CPAC cave to that, too?

Obviously, there has to be some regulation to ensure groups working against the conservative cause aren’t officially participating in the conference. But letting petty, intra-movement disputes govern the event isn’t the way to do it.

And one young gay conservative sees groups like ACU writing off an entire generation:

YAF and CBLPI drew attention to my activism because of my age and dedication. I was profiled by CBLPI on their website. Their spotlight stated, “Toni will never be accused of apathy. She passionately defends conservative beliefs, especially her pro-life and gun-rights positions.” At YAF’s recommendation, I spoke at CPAC 2008 as the youngest member of the two-minute activism panel about what I had done to promote conservative values at my high school.

In 2009, I decided it was time to liberate myself and admit that I was a lesbian. Am I no longer the defender of conservative beliefs that YAF and CBLPI held me up to be? Truthfully, I was not surprised when the invitations to conferences and events stopped. My Facebook friend count decreased and many of my political “friends” dropped off the face of the earth. But then I first heard about GOProud’s participation in CPAC in 2010 and that gave me hope that maybe my activism was not in vain. I was empowered by their willingness to engage the dogmatic, homophobic wing of the Republican Party and the lock-step, blind ideology of the Democratic Party.

I was sad to see the board of the ACU, along with leadership at Young America’s Foundation and the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, diminish the efforts of GOProud and conservatives like me. Not allowing GOProud to participate as they have for the last two years shows that the years I spent volunteering for them was a colossal waste of time and energy. When my lifestyle didn’t align with their view of what a conservative should be, I became a liability. Gay conservatives will not be silenced by these organizations’ vitriolic announcement and behavior. We will continue to fight for the conservative principles we believe in and watch CPAC’s attendance numbers deplete. Gay conservatives like me are empowered to keep fighting on the grassroots level, outside of the DC-based groups that want to control who is allowed to be a conservative. To borrow a phrase from one of my heroes, their bigotry will one day be relegated to the ash heap of history.

When David Keene left the ACU at the start of this year’s conference, this result seemed almost inevitable. It seemed from the outside that he was among those on the ACU board pushing most strongly for GOProud’s inclusion in the conference, and pushing back against the condemnation coming from groups like the FRC. David Weigel makes the point that the decision to ditch GOProud is as much a reflection of the political times as anything else:

Ejecting one group from a conference isn’t an historic event, especially when you factor in the unique bad blood between GOProud and the ACU board. But it does feel like a reshuffle in the conservative elite. When Barack Obama’s Democrats controlled everything, it was all conservatives in the foxhole. Obama looks beatable now, and the GOP House is winning as much as Newt Gingrich’s House ever did. The flash of GOProud, with their hotline to Donald Trump, isn’t as necessary.

In other words, the ACU is telling groups like GOProud we don’t need you anymore. If that’s the message that’s being sent I hope the people it’s being sent to remember it when those same people start knocking on their doors looking for support. Once they’ve burned you, there’s no reason to trust them again.

As for myself, if I do go to CPAC next year it will be in the same capacity as last time, as a blogger. Frankly, during the whole conference I spent most of my time in Blogger’s Lounge and socializing, which is really the best reason to go to any Washington party. If the conference is just going to turn into an opportunity for social conservatives to bash gay people and Muslims, though, I may not even waste my time, assuming I’d even be welcome.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Boyd says:

    It’s times like these when I wish my fellow evangelicals would remember that it’s God’s place to judge, not ours.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  2. michael reynolds says:

    That whole “judge not” thing never gained any traction.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 9

  3. ponce says:

    Yeah, most wingnuts live to judge.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 9

  4. Jay Tea says:

    Sarah Palin chose to blow off CPAC after their head tried to shake down FedEx. They were (and, I think, still are) in a fight with UPS over some federal regulations, and the CPAC guy told FedEx that for a seven-figure donation, he’d back them in Congress. And that predated the whole GOProud thing.

    That I find a hell of a lot more troubling than the whole gay thing. And that is far more of a reason to dump CPAC.

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  5. banshee says:

    My understanding is that GOProud will not be allowed to co-sponsor CPAC12, which is a far cry from being “banned”. They are still welcome to attend like any other group. I’ve never attended a CPAC and and don’t care to; it doesn’t define me as a conservative.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. In other words, the ACU is telling groups like GOProud we don’t need you anymore. If that’s the message that’s being sent I hope the people it’s being sent to remember it when those same people start knocking on their doors looking for support. Once they’ve burned you, there’s no reason to trust them again.

    This is why I never supported the tea party. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a libertarian-leaning voter since 1994, it’s that Republicans love to talk about limited government during election season, but will fall over themselves to be the first to throw you under the bus the second the votes are counted.

    Now that the 2010 elections are over, the Tea Party no longer needs us so they’re back to trashing us. This will last until after the primaries next year, at which point they’ll suddenly be our BFF’s until November.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 9

  7. @Jay Tea:

    That I find a hell of a lot more troubling than the whole gay thing.

    Of course you do. You’re not troubled by loss of liberty unless it personally impacts you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 10

  8. @banshee:

    My understanding is that GOProud will not be allowed to co-sponsor CPAC12, which is a far cry from being “banned”. They are still welcome to attend like any other group.

    Translation: please continue to give us tons of your money, just don’t expect to provide any input on what gets done with it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 9

  9. JohnMcC says:

    Without Brietbart and without the Birchers the CPAC will possibly rise to the intellectual level of the average preschool.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Translation: please continue to give us tons of your money, just don’t expect to provide any input on what gets done with it.
    ReplyReply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

    I need add no more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    and for the record, the last line quoted is no mistake. You people are idiots. I guess the truth hurts, ‘ey?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  12. Jay Tea says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Dumbass. I’m already on record, several times, saying that the exclusion of GOProud and the Birchers was a stupid, self-destructive mistake. I’m saying, however, that getting caught trying to sell the group’s influence is a far worse offense.

    Or do you think that saying “no gays allowed” is worse than “give us about $2 million, and we’ll use our influence to help you in Congress?”

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  13. Cynic in NY says:

    Just another reason why liberty loving gays are better off joining Libertarian groups and causes. Libertarians realized that Buckley’s fusionism project failed and saw what conservatism really is; statism by another name and face.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  14. @Jay Tea:

    Or do you think that saying “no gays allowed” is worse than “give us about $2 million, and we’ll use our influence to help you in Congress?”

    Yes!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  15. Tano says:

    Or do you think that saying “no gays allowed” is worse than “give us about $2 million, and we’ll use our influence to help you in Congress?

    Huh? Selling influence is what these groups are all about. Are you trying to play some “I’m shocked that there is gambling going on here” line?

    An assertion of pure anti-gay bigotry however, strikes far deeper. Anyone who attends this meeting is going to be tainted with this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  16. This is depressing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. Mike C says:

    Why are conservatives so intent on running off young people?

    My kids are 21 and 18. Both of them believe that a person’s sexual orientation is no-one’s business but their own – just as is the chemical content of a person’s bloodstream – so long as no-one is bothering anybody else in any tangible way.

    Being anti-gay and pro-drug-war will turn young voters away (in addition to being just plain spectacularly obtuse). Remember Churchill’s admonition: “Few people manage to free themselves from opinions they acquire in early adulthood.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  18. superdestroyer says:

    @Mike C:

    It is easy to blow off the few conservatives homosexuals there are because the demographic group as a whole is very liberal. Supporting gay marriage and applying the civil rights laws to sexual being homosexual will not get more than a few homosexuals to ever support the more conservative party.

    The libertarians will be no more successful than the Republicans at appealing to homosexuals. The vast majority of homosexuals want the government to ask you want your orientation is and to to give special rights to homosexuals. Not exactly a homosexual position.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  19. sam says:

    @superdestroyer:

    It is easy to blow off the few conservatives homosexuals there are because the demographic group as a whole is very liberal.

    Yikes! The face behind the mask emerges.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. Remind me again what major developments came out of the last CPAC? Why do we need them more than votes?

    Anybody supporting the position of that opportunistic weasel Ralph Reed is wrong going in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. Jay Tea says:

    @superdestroyer: Accurate, interesting, and irrelevant. At least to me.

    My support for gay marriage is entirely based on principle, not pragmatism. I hope that it will have pragmatic results, and allow more gay conservatives to “come out” and reveal their right-leaning tendencies, but that ain’t my goal.

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. mantis says:

    It is easy to blow off the few conservatives homosexuals there are because the demographic group as a whole is very liberal.

    Also blacks, hispanics, Jews, and people with college educations! Who needs em!

    The vast majority of homosexuals want the government to ask you want your orientation is and to to give special rights to homosexuals.

    Really? What “special rights” do “the vast majority of homosexuals” want, exactly?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. MM says:

    @superdestroyer:

    The vast majority of homosexuals want the government to ask you want your orientation is and to to give special rights to homosexuals. Not exactly a homosexual position.

    Those straw gays you have created sound pretty terrifying.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0