Kooks, Not Gays, Fuel CPAC Boycott

January 24th, 2011 at 12:50 am | 30 Comments |

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Another day, another politician announces he won’t attend CPAC. The latest entry in this list would be Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. He hasn’t stated why, his spokesman has just stated that he declined the invitation and so there is no sign yet that he is actively boycotting the conference. The same can’t be said of Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina. His spokesman told Politico on Friday that he was not attending since “leading conservatives organizations [are] not participating this year”. CPAC’s defenders have already used this news to play up a narrative: social conservatives are boycotting CPAC because of the inclusion of the homosexual conservative group GOProud. This narrative is incorrect and the media should be vigilant about not misrepresenting it. There are many other reasons for conservatives to not attend the conference.

GOProud has been quick to take credit as the cause of every boycott of CPAC. GOProud Chairman Chris Barron mockingly tweeted in response to DeMint’s announcement: ”Apparently my abs are frightening old straight white guys out of CPAC. I promise to wear a shirt the entire time if that helps.” This sort of self-promotion has led the media to buy into a narrative that the story is only about GOProud. Here are some examples: “Right-wingers skip the annual conservative convention because of the participation of a “gay” Republican group” is the sub-headline of a Salon blog post. “Social Conservatives Boycott CPAC Over Gay Groups, Andrew Breitbart To DJ Party?” asks Mediatie.

There are several problems with this narrative. The first is that this is not a unified boycott. The origination of this boycott “movement” began when the American Principles Project issued a press release back in November announcing their intentions to boycott the conference. Since then, APP’s campaign has focused on encouraging other organizations who were previously co-sponsors of the conference not to sponsor it this year. FrumForum contacted APP soon after DeMint’s office made its announcement, and they told FrumForum that they had not encouraged or pushed Sen. DeMint into making his announcement. The Heritage Foundation has been emphatically stating in its communication to the press that its practicing own boycott of CPAC is not part of any “wider movement.” Some in the media have pointed to the Family Research Council’s “Values Voter Summit” as being a rival to CPAC, and in its own messaging, FRC has also been insistent that they have been promoting their conference “before GOProud was a twinkle in anyone’s eye.”

GOProud is just one problematic datapoint among several that conservatives have with CPAC, and not all of the other datapoints are even related to social conservatism. Conservatives concerned about national security also have reason to be wary of the more isolationist tone at several of the CPAC panels. Last year, Ron Paul’s political organization, the “Campaign for Liberty”, ran an event entitled “Why Real Conservatives Oppose the War on Terror” during Newt Gingrich’s CPAC address. (Video available here.) Think about how an organization such as the Heritage Foundation (which has interests beyond just social conservatism) would view this panel. They would understandably be worried about more from CPAC than just GOProud.

As of the writing of this piece the schedule for CPAC 2011 has not yet been released, so we don’t yet know just how libertarian the conference will be. What we do know though, is that CPAC organizer Grover Norquist has called for a public debate on the cost of the Afghan war and its viability, showing that the debate has moved from just the Ron Paul devotees to the GOP establishment.

The focus on GOProud also distracts from other organizations attending CPAC that conservatives in general may prefer stayed further away. Preeminent among that list would be the John Birch Society, which was at CPAC in 2010 and will be there again in 2011. The presence of GOProud helps make the ACU and CPAC seem like an inclusive “big tent”, while the presence of the John Birch Society suggests that this tent is large enough to include fringe elements of the movement that many had thought were already expunged for being conspiratorial. Its understandable that some organizations and speakers might not wish to be associated at the conference because of venders other than GOProud.

Exactly how representative CPAC is of the conservative movement (and Republican primary voters) is also an open question, one that some of the more high profile speakers might consider before attending. (It’s already a given that the over-enthusiastic conservative activists who attend CPAC as not representative of the country as a whole.) Ron Paul has been able to do very well in the CPAC presidential straw poll and if he wins the straw poll again this year it will have no reflection on how well he will do in the GOP primaries. The speeches given as CPAC have a pseudo-presidential aura to them, and some speakers do gain from the national exposure. However, if CPAC’s audience is less reflective of both the country as a whole and the people likely to vote in a GOP primary, the necessity of attending may be reduced.

While some of the organizations boycotting CPAC are being closed-lipped about their full thoughts on the matter, some reporting has also suggested that there is a degree of personal animus being directed at CPAC’s main organizers, David Keene and Grover Norquist. Some of the reported reasons include frustration that David Keene would do work for FedEx over a regulatory conflict with UPS, and concern about the financial management of the conference.

The irony of course is that GOProud is the most palatable a conservative group that CPAC could hope to get. They even view the issue of gay marriage as a “State Issue” as opposed to agreeing with former Solicitor General Ted Olson that they have an inalienable right to marry guaranteed in the constitution. While GOProud’s presence does disturb many in the conservative world and acts as a convenient excuse not to attend, its clear that the concerns surrounding CPAC are more extensive than just one co-sponsor. Even conservatives who may not view social conservatism as their most important issue would have reasons not to attend or support the conference.

Recent Posts by Noah Kristula-Green



30 Comments so far ↓

  • Alex 0_0

    Extreme rationalization here, apologia for Heritage, weird. You know you’re in trouble when the the fact that most of the biggest social conservative groups publicly declare they won’t even sit in the same conference room as gay people, but that is reduced above to gays being a “problematic datapoint.” Sigh. The great news is that GOProud gets to claim credit for exposing Republicans as the “God Hates Fags” party.

  • Rabiner

    While it may not be because of GOProud that these organizations aren’t showing up, I find it intellectually stale that they wouldn’t show up since they disagree with one of the panels on an issue. If they disagree, how about they debate the issue out in the open so the public can determine the better course of action. Instead Heritage decides not to come rather than share a stage with the Ron Paul organization and debate the issue of the War on Terror.

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  • DirtyLibrul

    Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

    Let’s see, Limbaugh and Beck (keynote no less) spoke at CPAC 2010 and The John Birch Society was a co-sponsor. No kooks in that lot…

  • heap

    be it gays, or as you allude to them ‘isolationist panels’ or how libertarian panels may or may not be – in any case, they are all symptoms of the same malady – desire to be insulated from any dissenting or unapproved message or conversation. it isn’t good enough to state your case or your side of an ideological point, the other side better not even be given a microphone or else the faithful might catch the gay, or something (or to use what you point out, perhaps catch a bad case of isolationism, or have their brains corrupted by being in the same building as libertarians)

    that it’s within a conference that itself is rather insulated and dogmatic just adds to the entertainment value of other groups finding them ideologically unpure.

  • midcon

    Rabiner,

    Intellectual = elite = leftist. The hard right would not be caught dead having an intellectual discussion!

  • armstp

    There is seriously something wrong with a political party that violently rejects different viewpoints and will not even debate them. The tent continues to narrow. I think the GOP is way to caught up in their November election victory.

    Obama is now viewed by the majority of Americans as moderate and not a left wing crazy. I think if the GOP vers to far to the right, they will be view as the most radical party, which will make it just that much more easier for him to win reelection. However, most people in the country have no clue about what CPAC is and are hardly paying attention.

  • N Myles

    Blame Palin

  • JimBob

    Dave Weigel on Heritage CPAC

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/weigel/archive/2011/01/07/heritage-isn-t-skipping-cpac-because-of-goproud.aspx

    Leave it to Frum Forum to blame Ron Paul for Heritage boycotting. Lame lame lame.

  • Carney

    Why don’t the Norquists out there understand that calling “for a public debate on the cost of the Afghan war and its viability” helps the enemy? Our goal should be to impose enough death and pain so that THEY start debating the cost and viability of the war.

  • JimBob

    Carney we should follow Ronald Reagan’s advice and get out of the Middle East.

    http://orangepunch.ocregister.com/2006/07/21/reagans-wisdom-on-the-middle-east-leave/619/

  • talkradiosucks.com

    Sorry, Noah, not with you on this one. I very much believe this *is* nearly all about the rampant homophobia in the GOP.

  • Chris Balsz

    “There is seriously something wrong with a political party that violently rejects different viewpoints and will not even debate them. The tent continues to narrow. I think the GOP is way to caught up in their November election victory. ”

    “I very much believe this *is* nearly all about the rampant homophobia in the GOP.”

    This shows part of the problem. The Republican Party is a political party; it puts a candidate on every ballot in every election in the United States; it is trying to win every one of them; it must have a narrow geographical focus on most of those races; its national organization has to reflect those local and state organizations.

    CPAC is a group of people who have similar views on the issues. It is not a political party. It does not have a dog in every hunt. It doesn’t have to shop its agenda to fit polls. Demanding conservatives come to the national convention to argue with nonconservatives is like demanding the Audobon Society have a booth and a keynote speech by cat lovers.

    CPAC is being too closely identified with the GOP and judged by the standards of a political party rather than as a ideological faction.

  • politicalfan

    This is a mistake on many levels. I am sure that people will be standing in line in 2012 to vote for a President who has been messaged to take away their ‘rights.’ I think the social jumps make it appear as though there is no “plan” besides undoing everything. I think it is even a bigger mistake to let commentators be the faces of the party.

  • dmnolan

    “…before GOProud was a twinkle in anyone’s eye” So catty.

  • Watusie

    Chris Balsz “Demanding conservatives come to the national convention to argue with nonconservatives is like demanding the Audobon Society have a booth and a keynote speech by cat lovers.”

    GOProud is a conservative group. So your post is nonsense. Conservatives are refusing to come to a national convention and sit side-by-side with other conservatives, becasue they are afraid they might catch teh gay.

    In other words: what is happening here is people purporting to be conservatives are being exposed for what they really are: homophobic theocrats.

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  • Chris Balsz

    “GOProud is a conservative group. So your post is nonsense.”

    Unless they’re not a conservative group; I guess other conservatives have some say in that.

    “Conservatives are refusing to come to a national convention and sit side-by-side with other conservatives, becasue they are afraid they might catch teh gay.”

    More likely they fear high blood pressure and indigestion.

    “In other words: what is happening here is people purporting to be conservatives are being exposed for what they really are: homophobic theocrats.”

    Along with Bill Clinton, JFK, and pretty much everyone elected to federal office prior to 1972. They fit your standard for homophobia: disagreement with the homosexual lifestyle.

  • Watusie

    Lifestyle? Seriously? What is it about the “lifesyle” of GOProud that you object to?

    I recall Newt Gingrich getting a rock star’s welcome at last year’s CPAC. Shall we talk about his “lifestyle”?

    Three wives. Told one wife he was divorcing her to while she was in her hospital bed recovering from cancer surgery. Was observed getting oral sex from a staffer in the front seat of a car, in front of a neighbor and Gingrich’s own young daughters. Has had countless affairs, including with a campaign staffer and a neighbor’s wife. While prosecuting President Bill Clinton on charges of impeachment for lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, Gingrich himself was engaged in an extra-marital affair.

    Please spare me your hypocrisy.

  • Nanotek

    “Unless they’re not a conservative group; I guess other conservatives have some say in that.”

    conservative political correctness run amuk …

    Christians who worship as a god someone who reportedly associated with lepers, outcasts and whores refuse to associate with gay conservatives. Got it.

    as to “lifestyle” what is yours Chris Balsz?

  • DFL

    CPAC originated when conservatives had very few media outlets. It’s not particularly needed any longer due to the myriad media outlets and organizations controlled by conservatives. CPAC today is a winter festival for young conservative nerds who apparently don’t have families to support, mortgages to pay and jobs to perform 49 weeks of the year. I can think of some nice places to vacation in February and Washington DC isn’t one of them.

  • Chris Balsz

    “Christians who worship as a god someone who reportedly associated with lepers, outcasts and whores refuse to associate with gay conservatives. Got it.”

    After last year’s Sorba blowout, it’s clear that GOPround is there to offer “conservatives” a chance to celebrate the gay lifestyle. “Willingness to associate” isn’t good enough anymore.

  • Watusie

    And Newt Gingrich? Was he there last year to offer “conservatives” a chance to celebrate the narcassistic hetrosexual serial infidelity lifestyle?

  • Chris Balsz

    I presume so. They backed Vitter, didn’t they?

  • Watusie

    So you now agree that the issue isn’t lifestyle, it is sexual orientation. Very big of you.

  • NBlitzer

    This article is a joke. Just check out World Nut Daily for the amount of conservative groups boycotting CPAC because of GOProud.

  • cdorsen

    Conservatives boycotting a conservative conference because a group will attend that agrees with them on 98.9% of issues is incredibly divisive and destructive to the core mission. Hmm… let me see how quickly I can alienate a voting base and push them to the other party who welcomes with open arms.

    My Grandpa is, has, and always will be the staunchest conservative GOP’r there will ever be. He has signed pictures of Ronald Reagan and both Bush’s proudly displayed in his living room. Even at 88, here is what he said, “I don’t get all of this hoopla over gays. I don’t particularly care what they do to each other when I’m not looking. You don’t see too many poor gays, and they mostly stay out of trouble with the law which tells me they must work hard and take care of themselves. Overall, they seem to be good citizens.” And…he was born and raised in the south! If my 88 year old southern conservative Republican grandfather has no problem with gays in the GOP…. how last century are some of these people.

  • valkayec

    Actually, I’m finding it quite amusing to watch the GOP splinter apart. I think this splintering will be the great political story of the century.

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