I won't waste your time rehashing the lengthy, and more often than not completely inane, arguments over many conservatives' effective "boycotts" of CPAC, which included derogatory comments toward non-attendees, asinine commentary, and idealistic statements about "inclusion" from many folks who'd never attended a CPAC before in their lives. The fact is, these were in many cases carried out through the simple decision not to attend a conference which chose this year to radically change its purpose from a motivating (and motivated) gathering of conservative activists to, apparently, a Big Tent Party at which no view, however radical, was unwelcome, and at which traditional stalwarts of conservatism like pro-life and pro-values Republicans were expected to show up for appearance's sake, but stay "muted" for the duration, while groups like GOProud, whose Chairman and co-founder was an operative for the loathsome pro-sex-trafficking, pro-infanticide organization that is Planned Parenthood, were being fêted for their self-definition as edgy, modern "conservatives."
I also won't waste your time rehashing the vindication experienced by those conservatives who chose not to attend a conference which ended up being the scene of such embarrassing events as the shouting down of Vice President Dick Cheney with cries of "war criminal!" and "show us the shekels!," and a staged walk-out on former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld when the latter was being presented with a Defender of the Constitution award.
When the conference was held as scheduled, those who repeatedly denounced the "boycotters" (who in most cases simply chose to continue on with their daily lives over yet another February weekend rather than attend a non-mandatory event in a location - Washington, DC - which, contrary to its residents' apparent belief, exists at a location which is both a considerable distance from many folks' homes, and which is not the center of the universe), immediately claimed victory over the non-attendees - an action which belied a great misunderstanding of the purpose behind many conservatives' non-attendance in the first place, as well as a lack of attention to the all-important longue durée.
And lo and behold, in the light of that larger picture and longer view, it appears that the folks who went all-in for a Libertarian version of CPAC this year achieved a "victory" which can be described as Pyrrhic at best:
Groups supporting ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal or gay marriage will no longer be allowed to participate at CPAC
Al Cardenas, the new chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU), announced on CSPAN Wednesday that the his organization, which hosts the annual CPAC event, will now vet organizations before allowing them to participate.
The statement hints that gay conservative organization GOProud, a group whose participation infuriated social conservatives, and other groups determined insufficiently conservative by the ACU may not be welcome at next year’s 2012 CPAC.
Cardenas said that groups advocating for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” or supporting gay marriage would not be welcome.
“If you are a group, and this has got nothing to do with your orientation,” said Cardenes, “of straight couples, and you advocate gay marriage, that’s not within the scope of what we believe the three legs of the stool of the movement are.”
Aside from showing what a short-term victory, if you can call it that, was won by the emotional, in-the-moment pro-everything-except-SoCon-values crowd at this year's CPAC, Cardenes's announcement - which refreshingly suggests that CPAC may once again become the CPAC so many of us have known and loved for many years - raises some very real questions.
Perhaps the most important of these questions has to do with that pox on the conference itself, and on the Republican party as a whole, Rep. Ron Paul. Paul is, of course, a notorious do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do Republican who is famous among those who actually watch his actions, rather than being besotted by his cranky old man speech delivery, for being an earmarker of the first order (he sponsored $17,113,000 in earmarks in 2010, and was one of only four Representatives to violate the GOP's 2011 earmark moratorium, requesting $157, 093, 544 in taxpayer monies for pet projects in his district).
He's even more notorious, of course, for his own crank views on fiscal and foreign policy, and for his supporters' rabidly irrational statements and activities, which included the aforementioned heckling of both Cheney and Rumsfeld at a conference once dedicated to featuring and honoring men like them. However, a very valid question arises in light of Cardenas's statement that those who agitate for the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy which bars openly homosexual people from serving in the military: Will this disqualify Ron Paul from attending, and speaking, at next year's CPAC?
After all, Ron Paul voted for DADT repeal, which pretty squarely sets him against the standard set by Cardenas for inclusion in 2012. Whether this is a technicality or not, and whether Ron Paul himself should be excluded from CPAC (his DADT repeal vote, when added to his utterly absurd foreign policy views, sets him against two of the three legs on the stool model used by Cardenas and others to describe conservatism), one undeniable benefit would arise from his nonattendance: the corresponding nonattendance of the Ron Paul groupies whose presence at CPAC, or anywhere else, simply detracts value from the discourse, lives, and olfactory sensibilities of all who are unfortunate enough to be within sniffing range.
Given the fact that so few Paul acolytes appear to have anything productive to do with their time, barring Ron Paul from attending CPAC '12 would likely result in a massive on-site protest by the great (literally) unwashed that make up his base of support. However, if Cardenas has the ability to quietly convince the good doctor that it would be in his own best interest to be somewhere else the weekend of next year's CPAC - perhaps, for example, at an anti-Israel or pro-totalitarian dictator rally, or off sniffing gold dust in the Bay Area - then the combination of his absence and the absence of his followers may help to make next year's conference a return to CPAC Sanity.
Regarding the exclusion of "groups supporting ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal or gay marriage" from next year's conference, I think it is both predictable, and predictably ironic, that so many of the folks who castigated any and all CPAC '11 non-attendees for their "boycotting" non-attendance will likely take this new policy as a reason not to attend in 2012. When that time comes, I'm sure they'll have excellent excuses for why their "boycott" is no such thing - or, more likely, for why their boycott is steeped in principle, while the actions of those crybaby SoCons were based on nothing of the sort.
That argument will be as ridiculous then as it is now.