In the aftermath of this year's CPAC it would appear that to know-know-know GOProud isn't necessarily to love-love-love it. In fact, if you listen carefully you can almost hear the voice of the class monitor advising many of its erstwhile supporters to stay calm and move in an orderly fashion toward the fire exits. Tammy Bruce, in what can only be described as a terse statement, has resigned from their advisory board. Al Cardenas, the new chair of the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, is publicly rethinking the wisdom of working with them in future:
I have been disappointed with their website and their quotes in the media, taunting organizations that are respected in our movement and part of our movement, and that’s not acceptable. And that puts them in a difficult light in terms of how I view things ... It’s going to be difficult to continue the relationship [with GOProud] because of their behavior and attitude ...
At issue have been a number of statements made by GOProud co-founders Christopher Barron and Jimmy LaSalvia in response to people and organizations who either stayed home this year or showed up expressing serious misgivings about GOProud's role and agenda. These exercises in spleen-venting have been remarkable not only for their impolitic petulance but the disturbing tendency to play the "bigot" card -- pretty much as a default -- in the face of legitimate disagreements.
Thus it is that in Barron's world, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council doesn't merely disagree with (or misunderstand) GOProud's stance on gay marriage, he is actually in the business of "demonizing gays":
In case this strikes you as too subtle to make a definitive call, Barron obligingly spells it out in a separate interview in Metro Weekly -- with bonus tracks: The Heritage Foundation and Jim DeMint:
If you're Tony Perkins, you're a bigot. You're against all of that stuff not because of any federalist reasons, but actually because you're just a nasty, anti-gay bigot.
''I think there's a couple people in Heritage who, at the behest of Cleta Mitchell – who is just a nasty bigot … she got some of the people at Heritage early on fired up about this
They're all excited that Jim DeMint is boycotting. And that's fantastic. I'm glad that he's willing to be on the Island of Political Misfit Toys ...
Inexplicably, some "old school" conservatives take umbrage at newcomers -- especially those whose contributions to date couldn't be detected with an electron microscope -- taking a pole-axe to those who have been fighting, and winning, this bar fight for a very long time, and who by no stretch of anyone's febrile imagination can be considered bigots of any kind.
In fairness Barron did apologize for the Cleta Mitchell remark.
For the past six months, we have watched as unfair and untrue attacks have been leveled against our organization, our allies, our friends and sometimes even their families. Everyone has their breaking point and clearly in my interview with Metro Weekly I had reached mine. I shouldn’t have used the language that I did to describe Cleta Mitchell and for that I apologize ...
No word on how the other retractions are coming.
Perhaps what has exercised Barron has been the "unfair and untrue attacks" based largely on his own published words, GOProud website content (current and scrubbed -- although not quite scrubbed enough) and public pronouncements.
GOProud's fundamental pitch is well encapsulated in its mission statement:
GOProud represents gay conservatives and their allies. GOProud is committed to a traditional conservative agenda that emphasizes limited government, individual liberty, free markets and a confident foreign policy. GOProud promotes our traditional conservative agenda by influencing politics and policy at the federal level. [Emphasis mine.]
Got it. GOProud is an organization comprised of fiscal conservatives, strong on defense, who just happen to be gay. What rational person -- even a social conservative like me heavily invested in ensuring that no-one has any fun -- could have a problem with that?
In fact, GOProud is so not into pushing a social agenda that they felt compelled to exhort Congressional Republic leaders to do likewise in an open letter:
On behalf of limited government conservatives everywhere we write to urge you and your colleagues in Washington to put forward a legislative agenda in the next Congress that reflects the principles of the Tea Party movement.
The Tea Party movement is a non-partisan movement, focused on issues of economic freedom and limited government, and a movement that will be as vigilant with a Republican-controlled Congress as we were with a Democratic-controlled Congress.
This election was not a mandate for the Republican Party, nor was it a mandate to act on any social issue, nor should it be interpreted as a political blank check.
We urge you to stay focused on the issues that got you and your colleagues elected and to resist the urge to run down any social issue rabbit holes in order to appease the special interests.
One has to wonder how Jim DeMint -- who took time away from Island of Misfit Toys long enough to raise more money for conservative candidates than anyone else in the mid-terms -- felt about being lectured by GOProud and its gnat-sized cadre, in their self-appointed capacity as spokesmen for the entire Tea Party movement. I can't imagine it was pretty.
The problem is, for all their protestations to the contrary, GOProud has left a trail of evidence (which it has been only partially successful in expunging) to indicate that pushing a social agenda is exactly what they're up to.
It is disquieting, for instance, that a "hands off the social issues" guy like Christopher Barron should have served as the "head of Republican outreach" for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or that as Political Director of Log Cabin Republicans:
He coordinated Log Cabin’s lobbying efforts to defeat the anti-family Federal Marriage Amendment, ... implemented a GOP lobby strategy for HIV/AIDS funding, hate crimes legislation, federal employment non-discrimination legislation, and legislation repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
One would almost think, given the lack of success in bringing conservatives to enlightenment by these means, better minds decided to shape-shift into something a bit more ... oblique.
In examining their website content -- past and present -- however, it quickly becomes obvious that this is still a work in progress.
Compare, for instance the current preamble to their Federal Legislative Priorities with the same section last September:
Or other sections where clearly some softening of the prose has taken place:
One could argue -- as Barron has -- that there are perfectly good explanations for all of this. I'm actually waiting for a few that don't sound like spin-control. In the interim I hope we can minimally agree on the importance of getting past Kumbaya and doing a little due diligence before endorsing them. I am glad the ACU is reviewing their involvement. It might have been a good idea to think through some of these issues a year ago.
The GOProud debacle — and make no mistake Tammy Bruce and CPAC are just the beginning — contains a boatload of lessons for the Rodney King wing of the conservative movement.
Two spring immediately to mind:
- "Can't we all get along?" is a noble sentiment, and a great Hallmark message, but like all such sentiments requires some examination of the details before wholesale adoption.
- All tents, even really big ones, will eventually collapse if you stretch the tent-pegs beyond their design limits. Try it if you don't believe me.
Those who insist on conflating tolerance with endorsement will insist this is proof of conservative homophobia, when actually its proof that conservatives — even after a period of muddled acquiescence — will eventually recognize a Trojan Horse when they see one.