On CPAC, Social Conservatives, And GOProud

On the eve of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, another shot has been fired by those boycotting the meeting due to the presence of a gay conservative group.

On the eve of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, the rift on the right over the presence of gay conservative group GOProud at the conference, along with the general issue of gay rights itself, continues to split the conservative movement with the latest salvo being fired by the groups that are boycotting CPAC this year:

Deepening a rift ahead of the largest annual gathering of conservative activists in Washington this week, some of the movement’s top leaders have circulated a private memo urging that conservatism’s founding principles be recast to exclude gay rights groups from the Reagan coalition of economic, defense and social conservatives.

The memo, obtained by The Washington Times, was signed by about two dozen leaders, and was released just as the Conservative Political Action Conference is set to begin its most contentious session in years, riven with divisions over a gay rights Republican group that is helping sponsor the conference and the social conservatives who are trying to keep it out.

The fight, which amounts to a battle for primacy among the three major legs of the movement, threatens to rend the conservative coalition at what should otherwise be a heady time. Riding the wave of tea party enthusiasm, conservatives saw big gains for their champions and for the broader GOP in last year’s elections.

But the memo, written under the moniker Conservatives for Unity, argued that there can be no common ground between gay rights conservative activists and social-issues conservatives, and said it’s time to settle the issue.

“It is not necessary for each group within a political movement to embrace the full agenda of others. But it is necessary for each group within any coherent movement not to stand in diametrical opposition to one or more of its core principles. It is our conviction that the institution of marriage and the family qualify as such principles,” said the conservatives.

Even Sarah Palin is coming under fire from the boycotters for somewhat ambiguous remarks the other day which most have interpreted as being supportive of GOProud:

Her remarks did not sit well with American Principles Project president Frank Cannon. His group was one of the first to call on supporters to boycott this year’s CPAC conference, one of the largest annual gatherings of conservatives in the country, over GOProud’s involvement.

“The concern of conservatives is over the participation of a group whose stated goals run at odds with that of core conservative principles, not over debate over those issues,” said Cannon said in a statement on Monday. “Governor Palin should clarify her comments by letting us know whether in her definition, traditional marriage is a core component of conservatism.”

Certainly Governor Palin would not be in favor of allowing a socialist group to be a participating organization (i.e. co-sponsor of CPAC) in the name of healthy debate,” he added.

Notice that bit of legerdemain. A group that is generally conservative on economic and national security issues, but which supports equal treatment under the law for gays and lesbians is equivalent to socialists in being incompatible with the conservative movement. Under that logic, Dick Cheney would be panned from CPAC if Cannon and others had their way given his support for gay marriage.

Over at RedState, which has hosted its own debate on the whole issue, Erick Erickson joins in with those questioning the conservative bona fides of GOProud and, essentially, anyone who doesn’t accept wholeheartedly the social conservative agenda:

In any event, your mileage can vary on where you stand on whether they should be or should not be at CPAC (I’d rather GOProud than the Muslim Brotherhood), but on the issue of GOProud and Tim Pawlenty, your mileage can’t really vary if we’re going to uphold one standard and some basic reciprocity.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty has endorsed the long standing and conservative position of Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell — a position long advocated at CPAC no less. In response, Chris Barron of GOProud is attacking Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty, by the way, is not “boycotting” CPAC because of GOProud’s presence. He’ll be there.

I understand that Pawlenty is trying hard to get people to pay attention to his campaign. Its certainly a challenge for someone with such little stature in the conservative movement to compete with high profile conservative leaders like Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, etc. Unfortunately for Pawlenty, comments like this simply show how totally out-of-touch he is with the issues that rank and file conservatives care about. If he wants to show he is a committed social conservative he would be much better served talking about the need to defund Planned Parenthood, end federal funding for abortion, reign in an out of control judiciary and support for a parents rigths amendment to protect home-schoolers.

Of course, Erickson seems to ignore that both the vast majority of Americans and the majority of Republicans supported repealing DADT, and the politicians like Pawlenty talking about repealing it are just doing it to appeal to the tiny, homophobic, social conservative fringe who has some irrational fear about gay people serving in the military.

Interestingly, Erickson also seems to ignore the words of Ronald Reagan, who talked about the interconnected roots of conservatism and libertarianism more than 35 year ago:

REAGAN: If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals-if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

Now, I can’t say that I will agree with all the things that the present group who call themselves Libertarians in the sense of a party say, because I think that like in any political movement there are shades, and there are libertarians who are almost over at the point of wanting no government at all or anarchy. I believe there are legitimate government functions. There is a legitimate need in an orderly society for some government to maintain freedom or we will have tyranny by individuals. The strongest man on the block will run the neighborhood. We have government to insure that we don’t each one of us have to carry a club to defend ourselves. But again, I stand on my statement that I think that libertarianism and conservatism are travelling the same path.

That’s not to say that conservatives and libertarians are the same thing. They most emphatically are not. Conservatives place value on tradition and the role of society, often at the expense of the individual, while libertarians tend to draw theirs from the same well that Founders like Jefferson did:

Libertarianism isn’t the Libertarian Party (of which I am a former member), and it’s not a gaggle of rabble-rousing college aged Ron Paul supporters (I did not and would not vote for Ron Paul), or a flock of misguided Ayn Rand devotees (she’s on my bookshelf, but so is Karl Marx).

Libertarianism is a political and moral philosophy that predates the United States itself, one could argue, going all the way back to the pre-Magna Carta days in England, or to the old days of the Roman Republic.

Its modern instantiations include the philosophies of John Locke (also known as Lockean liberalism or classical liberalism), James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson.

Its contemporary instantiations include the philosophies of Robert Nozick and Charles Murray, the same Murray whose seminal work Losing Ground (1984) laid out the moral case against the failed Great Society programs and continued dependence on the American welfare state during the Reagan presidency.

The differences become even more stark when you look at the platform of most social conservatives, which hasn’t changed much in the last two decades even though America has changed significantly:

Take a look at the key issues on the website of the Family Research Council, the chief social conservative group. It recently listed eight papers on abortion and stem cells, seven on gays and gay marriage, and one on divorce. Nothing much has changed since 1994, when I reviewed the Council’s publications index and found that the two categories with the most listings were “Homosexual” and “Homosexual in the Military” — a total of 34 items (plus four on AIDS). The organization did show some interest in parenthood — nine items on family structure, 13 on parenthood and six on teen pregnancy — but there were more items on homosexuality than on all of those issues combined. There was no listing for divorce. Since that time, the out-of-wedlock birthrate has risen from 32% to 40%.

Back then, conservatives still defended sodomy laws. These days, after the 2003 Supreme Court decision striking down such laws, most have moved on. Now they just campaign against gays in the military, gays adopting children and gays getting married.

Reducing the incidence of unwed motherhood, divorce, fatherlessness, welfare and crime would be a good thing. So why the focus on issues that would do nothing to solve the “breakdown of the basic family structure” and the resulting “high cost of a dysfunctional society”? Well, solving the problems of divorce and unwed motherhood is hard. And lots of Republican and conservative voters have been divorced. A constitutional amendment to ban divorce wouldn’t go over very well, even with the social conservatives. Far better to pick on a small group, a group not perceived to be part of the Republican constituency, and blame it for social breakdown and its associated costs.

That’s why social conservatives point to a real problem and then offer phony solutions.

But you won’t find your keys on the thoroughfare if you dropped them in the alley, and you won’t reduce the costs of social breakdown by keeping gays unmarried and preventing them from adopting orphans.

The irony of the social conservative rebellion against the growing, albeit slow, acceptance of gay equality on the right is that they are currently advocating a mutually contradictory agenda. At the same time that they decry the growth of government, they propose to use the power of the state to try to control behavior at the most intimate levels. As Lincoln said, a house divided against itself cannot stand, and a political philosophy that advocates statism in one area cannot advocate freedom in another without eventually becoming all-slave or all-free. Moreover, after thirty years of failure one would think that social conservatives would realize that forcing people to act moral doesn’t work. Freedom does.

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Doug Mataconis
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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. As I and numerous other people predicted, all the “limited government” talk from last year was just BS and that the second the Republicans got back in control of part of congress, they’d immediately start throwing libertarians under the bus again.

    Of course, libertarians went and voted for them anyways, once again believe that this time they’d really changed. And after two years of abuse, libertarians will do it again when the GOP starts telling us how much they love us right before the 2012 presidential election.

  2. Herb says:

    Why does a conservative gay person need to be a Republican anyway? The party doesn’t like gay people, actively works against them, and often relies on homophobia to rally the base. Be a Democrat. They’re more flexible when it comes to foreign policy and economics than the Republicans are about the gays.

  3. george says:

    >The irony of the social conservative rebellion against the growing, albeit slow, acceptance of gay equality on the right is that they are currently advocating a mutually contradictory agenda. At the same time that they decry the growth of government, they propose to use the power of the state to try to control behavior at the most intimate levels.

    That kind of sums it up nicely. They’re against big gov’t, except when they’re for big gov’t.

    There really needs to be a third party, for people who are socially liberal and fiscally conservative; right now neither party fits.

  4. EddieInCA says:

    Doug –

    You and James must be so proud of your compatriots in Ohio and Texas:

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/02/08/ohio-abortion-ban-hinges-heartbeat/

    “An unborn child’s heartbeat can be detected as soon as 18 days after conception, and supporters of a bill slated to be unveiled in the Ohio Legislature Wednesday say that women should be prohibited from ending pregnancies beyond that milestone.

    State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann is planning to unveil the “Heartbeat Bill” and a legislative aide for the Republican tells Fox News that 42 of the 99 representatives in the Ohio state House have signed on to the bill, which would make an exception to the heartbeat rule only in emergency medical situations. ”

    http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/934574–texas-considers-law-requiring-women-to-see-fetus-listen-to-heartbeat-before-abortion?bn=1

    “AUSTIN, TEXAS—A Texas Senate committee will begin considering an anti-abortion measure this week that, if passed, would be one of the strongest in the nation. The bill mandates that pregnant women be shown an ultrasound of the fetus at least two hours before an abortion.

    Physicians also would be required to explain the grainy image, including a description of the fetus’ dimensions and, if applicable, the presence of limbs or internal organs. If audible, the fetal heartbeat would have to be played for the woman as well.”

    Yay for small government!!!!

  5. mantis says:

    Yeah, Republicans want your medical decisions to be between you and your doctor, unless you’re a woman. In that case your body belongs to the state.

  6. wr says:

    That’s a cruel slander, Mantis. A lot of them think the woman’s body belongs to the church.

  7. EddieInCA says:

    Anyone else notice how so many of the “Reasonable Conservatives” (i.e. Liberarians) disappear whenver OTB discusses “Social Issues”.

    It’s amazing to me that so many of you vote for the crazy party, yet try to disassociate yourself from the crazies at every opportunity.

    Doesn’t really make sense to me.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    None of this is the least bit surprising except possibly, to Doug, who remains wonderfully oblivious to the true nature of his party. He’s the piano player in the whore house who claims not to know what goes on upstairs.

    (By the way, Doug, your claim not to consider yourself a Republican was sunk by your statement the other day that you’ve never voted for a Democrat.)

    The GOP is and has been and will continue to be the party that supports using the powers of government to limit individual liberty. Gay-bashing, dog whistle racism, the cult of the gun, and of course slavish obedience to the rich are the essence of Republicanism. They aren’t a bug, they’re a feature.

    Doug and other supposedly rational Republicans sell out black Americans, sell out gay Americans, sell out the poor, immigrants, Muslims, and empower ignorance, intolerance and the threat of political violence, all in the name of a tax cut.

    For a 5% reduction in marginal rates.

    And then stand around saying, “Well, this is terrible! Where do I sign up?”

  9. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***Anyone else notice how so many of the “Reasonable Conservatives” (i.e. Librarians) disappear whenever OTB discusses “Social Issues”. ***

    Or they side with the delusional fanatical anti social militants just enough, out of fear of ridicule with the excuse that total perversion and mass murder is inevitable.

  10. G.A.Phillips says:

    lol, Harry………you are starting to crack me up, I have been missing my two seconds of Olbermann a night, thanks bro:)

  11. ponce says:

    “Moreover, after thirty years of failure one would think that social conservatives would realize that forcing people to act moral doesn’t work.”

    Hated of gays has been a very successful strategy for Republicans both in recruiting and getting out the vote.

    Losing gay hatred and having their second best tool, rabid support of the military, in a single piece of legislation must have been just awful for America’s religious freaks.

    So they’re lashing out…

  12. An Interested Party says:

    I wonder if both libertarians and social conservatives enjoy being played as suckers by the GOP…granted, the libertarians do get their tax cuts, but the power of the state is pumped up by Republicans for so many others things that libertarians don’t like…meanwhile, the social conservatives, who can be counted on to be the shock troops for the Republican Party on election day, are still waiting for the GOP to do something meaningful about abortion, and while they get scraps thrown their way with multiple states banning gay marriage, they still have to deal with the society at large “assaulting” their tradition values, with the GOP not being able to do much at all about it, other than talking a good game, that is…

  13. sam says:

    Ah, well, well, well — the GAchickens are coming home to roost for the GOP and its backers in the bidness community:

    GOP Backs Massive Tax Increase To Phase Out Abortion Coverage By Private Insurers

    Wonder how all this will go down with the independents? It just adds more evidence to the already massive amount proving that you can never, ever, overestimate the Stupid Party’s stupidity.

  14. Davebo says:

    Do you hear the crickets?

    That’s the sound of Doug forcefully defending his party, which isn’t his party really, he just votes for them year after year.

    That’s gotta be a psychologists dream…

  15. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***Yeah, Republicans want your medical decisions to be between you and your doctor, unless you’re a woman. In that case your body belongs to the state.***dude, a pregnant woman’s body consists of two people and more to the fact three.

  16. mantis says:

    You heard it here first. A pregnant woman is in fact three people. Thanks for that bit of insight, G.A. Back to your hole now.

  17. EddieInCA says:

    Another one…. Jeez….

    http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20110208/NEWS10/102080371/Bill-in-Iowa-House-aims-to-protect-same-sex-marriage-objectors?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|Frontpage

    “It would be legal for an Iowa business owner who cites religious beliefs to refuse to provide jobs, housing, goods or services to people involved in a marriage that violates his or her religious convictions, according to a bill an Iowa House subcommittee will consider on Wednesday. House Study Bill 50, called the Religious Conscience Protection Act, would allow a person, business or organization such as a charity or fraternal group to deny services without fear of facing a civil claim or lawsuit if they think doing so would validate or recognize same-sex relationships.”

    Wow. Just wow.

  18. ponce says:

    “That’s gotta be a psychologists dream…”

    “I’m not a Republican, I just vote for them every single election” is a common libertarian rationalization, mantis.

  19. george says:

    > *dude, a pregnant woman’s body consists of two people and more to the fact three.

    Okay, I’m lost. Except for the case of twins, I don’t see how you get three.

  20. mantis says:

    Okay, I’m lost. Except for the case of twins, I don’t see how you get three.

    You forgot Jebus!

  21. wr says:

    It’s pretty clear that GA is a good Republican and believes that a woman’s body belongs to herself, the fetus and the man who impregnated her — boyfriend, husband, or rapist. Although I’d guess not in that order.

  22. @Davebo,

    Your comment assumes I feel like defending the GOP. I don’t. Like James, I haven’t been happy with them for years. That doesn’t mean I consider the Democrats to be any better, though.

  23. mantis says:

    That doesn’t mean I consider the Democrats to be any better, though.

    On balance, how can you not?

  24. tom p says:

    “Your comment assumes I feel like defending the GOP. I don’t. Like James, I haven’t been happy with them for years. That doesn’t mean I consider the Democrats to be any better, though.”

    Doug, here is where I do not get guys like you and James: You vote on the assumption that “economic freedom for all” means economic freedom for you…. you do this in the face of the vast overwhelming evidence that says, ” ‘Economic freedom for all’ is only for the few….” In other words, those on top now will be even MORE on top after all restraints are removed… (or the select few restraints that they have chosen)(remember the golden rule: “The man with the gold, makes the rules.”)

    The game is rigged. You will lose as surely as I. Drew will be happy tho. Charles and Steve P. will find out that there is no room for them in the club. And ALL of of us will take it right up the a**.

  25. wr says:

    Yes, but we’ll be free, free, free!

  26. george says:

    >It’s pretty clear that GA is a good Republican and believes that a woman’s body belongs to herself, the fetus and the man who impregnated her — boyfriend, husband, or rapist. Although I’d guess not in that order.

    That’s an opinion, which though obnoxious, at least makes some sense. But he said it ‘consists’ rather ‘belongs’ … which is a bit more puzzling.

  27. michael reynolds says:

    tom p:

    They can be bought. That’s what’s so lovely about Republicans. They may feel badly about crapping on gays, but their consciences are for sale. They don’t like Limbaugh’s racism, but they can soothe away their concerns with money. Their idealism has a price tag which, when you think about it, is just so perfectly Republican.

    It’s the free market in action.