The recent decision by the American Conservative Union (ACU) to ban the controversial pro-gay GOProud group from next year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has certainly made a statement. The declaration by ACU Chair Al Cardenas to disinvite GOProud comes at the heels of New York’s legalization of gay marriage, leaving some wondering what exactly is happening in the conservative movement in relation to social reality.
The ACU’s staunch position on gay marriage and, by extension, pro-LGBT groups, is not beneficial even though the GOP can retain the older generation of social conservatives, because they are excluding a new generation of social progressives. For now, the social conservatives’ deep pockets have silenced the rest. Money has been louder than words. The ACU is compromising healthy progress by paying too much attention to finance and not giving enough consideration to the ideological repercussions surrounding the exclusion of GOProud from CPAC 2012. By excluding GOProud from CPAC even though GOProud is a conservative organization with conservative values, the ACU is sending the message that the Republican Party will continue to be stagnant on social issues at any cost.
GOProud could not have been excluded from the conference on an ideological basis. The organizations that have signed up for CPAC 2012 thus far have a plethora of beliefs as to what defines a political conservative, because the ACU has a fairly vague definition of what it means to be a conservative. ACU’s mission states that it “represents the views of Americans who are concerned with economic growth through lower taxes and reduced government spending and the issues of liberty, personal responsibility, traditional values and national security.” This mission statement is the opposite of exclusive; in fact, it is welcoming to a variety of conservative ideologies. So why is GOProud’s platform so discredited?
The ACU brings a host of participating organizations to CPAC, and they sometimes have differing views on major political issues. For example, Young Americans for Liberty is at CPAC for many reasons, one of which is to promote anti-war rhetoric with an emphasis on decreasing foreign involvement. Keep America Safe, another group that has signed up for CPAC, disagrees with this view, emphasizing their belief that the U.S. should invest more in national security.
There are many ways to be conservative. CPAC is a way for conservatives to congregate and discuss these disparities. Therefore, it was initially perplexing to me why GOProud would be excluded from the conference. Their mission statement is entirely in line with the ACU’s statement.
The reason GOProud was excluded from CPAC 2012 was actually quite simple: Sponsors were dropping out because they heard that a pro-LGBT group was going to be at CPAC another year and the ACU feared that the trend would continue. Sponsorship is crucial, because these organizations are providing the lifeline for CPAC. Nevertheless, it is hardly fair for GOProud to be excluded from CPAC because of one social issue when, overall, GOProud and the ACU have nearly identical visions of the conservative agenda.
It was acceptable for Mitt Romney to pass very liberal health care legislation in Massachusetts, and he was heartily welcomed back to CPAC last year and likely will be again next year. However, the GOProud movement merely called for LGBT equality, and conservatives quickly disinvited GOProud from CPAC next year. The message from the ACU is clear: progressive positions on economic issues are for whatever reason, more acceptable than progressive positions on social issues. My hope is that the ACU will find a way to invite GOProud to future CPACs to be fair, to encourage debate within the conservative movement, and to serve as a welcoming gesture to many social progressives within the Republican Party.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore