The Closing Of The CPAC Mind
After years of becoming more inclusive, the Conservative Political Action Conference is closing itself off to opposing points of view.
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.