The gay conservative group GOProud scored a big political win over its most dangerous rival last week. No, I’m not referring to their social conservative adversaries. I’m referring to the more relevant and less conservative group that GOProud splintered away from: the Log Cabin Republicans.
This is nothing new. At last year’s CPAC conference, GOProud did exactly as it has done this year, creating a stir by signing on to co-sponsor the annual gathering. Rather than taking a firm stance on its right to be at the conference, the GOProud leaders took the opportunity to whack LCR as regularly as possible. Jimmy LaSalvia told Hot Air’s Ed Morrisey that “as you may know, GOProud was founded by a former member of the Log Cabin Republicans who left the group because he thought they were doing a disservice to their constituency by not adhering to conservative and Republican principles.”
This year, many social conservative groups are up in arms over GOProud’s return to CPAC, yet the Log Cabin Republicans are conspicuously absent from this entire CPAC fiasco. Why?
The founders of GOProud made a calculated decision to get their name into the public eye and the debate over sponsoring CPAC allowed them to do so at a time when Log Cabin Republicans was floundering. But GOProud may have hitched its wagon to the wrong movement, and at times the wrong candidate. In a September 2010 story on the group, Ben Smith quotes one of GOProud’s founders as saying “We’re Joe Miller; Log Cabin is Lisa Murkowski.” We all know how that turned out, with Murkowski winning reelection and voting to repeal DADT. (During the vote on DADT, GOProud praised the votes of Senators Mark Kirk and Scott Brown, but was silent on Murkowski and other GOP senators it did not endorse.)
The LCR v. GOProud “feud” has gone much the same way as the Alaska Senate race. If GOProud’s star was on the rise at this time last year, this year it is much more desperate for attention. LCR spearheaded the lawsuit which led a federal judge to overturn DADT and it played a vocal role in pushing Republicans to support repealing DADT. Its new executive director, R. Clarke Cooper, became a regular guest on cable news over the course of the year. Under his leadership, LCR probably helped deliver the biggest year that gay Republicans have ever had.
Charles Moran, former national spokesman for Log Cabin Republicans and principle at CTM consulting spoke to FrumForum. Moran pointed out that: “GOProud needs the publicity because otherwise, it really isn’t very relevant. It does not have a presence on Capitol Hill and it does not have a membership base.” LCR still retains the structural advantages that make it more difficult for GOProud to remain nationally relevant. LCR has a PAC, a significant membership base, a fixed headquarters, and a handful of in-house lobbyists to push its agenda on Capitol Hill.
GOProud does not have these advantages so it must get creative to stay relevant. The group finds its way into the headlines in ways that raise fair questions about their goals. For instance, in September of 2010, the group booked none other than Ms. Discrimination herself, Ann Coulter, to speak at a $2,500 a plate fundraiser in New York. To a crowd of her gay fans, Coulter stated that “I don’t care how many studies Ted Olson produces” and that the ideal is “one mother, one father.” GOProud’s founders were quick to defend Coulter’s right to disagree with those who support gay marriage, but its hard to deny that she was an odd choice to speak for the group. Coulter is the same woman who went on national television (on Hannity and Colmes in 2007) to argue that “[f]aggot isn’t offensive to gays; it has nothing to do with gays. It’s a schoolyard taunt meaning ‘wuss.’”
Regarding the controversy over CPAC, Moran noted that:
The Tea Party really drove the Republican Revolution of 2010 and the Tea Party really does not focus on social issues. They are all about the economy and getting America moving again. The big, very focused social conservative advocacy groups like Liberty University realize that social issues are not a part of the Tea Party and are therefore going to be less important to mainstream Republican politics as we go forward. This fight is really about these socially conservative groups desperately trying to stay relevant.
Conservatives tolerate GOproud precisely because they know the group won’t actually push them to address substantive issues involving gay rights. GOProud’s motto might as well be: “Gays should not ask what the Republican Party can do for them. Gays should ask what they can do for the Republican Party.” But for those gay conservatives who would like their organization to speak for their own interests too, little is to be gained at an event like CPAC. LCR realizes, I suspect, that it doesn’t need to fight such public wars as the tides of progress flow in a pro-gay direction. LCR’S absence from CPAC is a sign of LCR’s strength. GOProud may have provoked social conservatives into a petulant and self-destructive display, but CPAC remains as hostile as ever to a gay civil rights agenda. GOProud’s participation does nothing to correct that offense.