Thursday begins the annual CPAC conference in Washington DC, the annual gathering at which Republicans from all around the country come to party, listen to speakers, and most importantly cast their vote in the straw poll for which Republican they would most like to see at the head of the ticket in the next presidential election. It’s usually a pretty stayed affair, aside from the late nights pulled in the hotel bar by some of the younger staffers, but this year there is controversy.
The most contentious issue is the attendance of GOProud, a gay Republican group
2 weeks ago a number of socially conservative groups, including the Family Research Council, Concerned Women of America, and even the Heritage Foundation announced that they would boycott this year’s CPAC conference if GOProud was allowed to officially attend the gathering.
This is unfortunate. The very essence of conservatism is the belief in the limited roll of government. A gay group that espouses such a belief should be welcomed into the fold, not shunned. Yet for some groups allowing outed gays to have a voice at the conference is a bridge too far. They would rather not be in the same hotel ballroom with such people thank you very much.
It’s bigotry plain and simple.
It is entirely reasonable for socially conservative groups to engage in debate at the conference over the issues surrounding GOProud’s official attendance. It is also reasonable for them to voice their displeasure loudly. But to pick up the ball and go home? Well, that’s just lame.
There are far bigger fish to fry than these social issues. The massive expansion of government and the commensurate expansion of the federal debt should be priority number one. It will take every ally conservatives can muster to turn this ship of state around and back toward something that resembles fiscal sanity.
Yet the social conservatives would rather bicker about whether a gay group can set up a table in the lobby of the Marriot, than address the issues that threaten this country fundamentally.
There is another analysis of why the social cons have backed out, and it has less to due with GOProud and more to due with a rabble rouser named Ron Paul.
Last year Ron Paul shocked the establishment and won the presidential straw poll. Using social media and other means the libertarian wing of the Republican Party showed up in force and embarrassed the establishment darling, Mitt Romney. Dr. Paul won the poll with 31%. Romney came in second with 22%. The establishment was on notice.
In the year since the social conservatives have had plenty of time to marshal support for Mr. Romney, and indeed have forked over lots of money to the former Massachusetts Governor. Yet as the social conservatives assessed the CPAC landscape it appeared again that their man was marching toward defeat.
Now, with these groups boycotting they can make the case that the straw poll didn’t really reflect the broader GOP, which of course would support Mr. Romney and a much more socially conservative agenda.
Another interesting player absent from CPAC this year is Sarah Palin. She likewise has assessed the 2011 CPAC climate and has decided to sit this one out. Not however due to inclusion of GOProud however. In fact over the weekend on CBN no less she basically made the case for GOProud’s inclusion, though she didn’t say so explicitly. She knew that she was going to lose the poll and preferred to be graceful about it. Unlike the socially conservative establishment groups.
That is really what the boycott is about. The establishment is losing it’s grip on the Grand Old Party and they are not happy about it. In the wake of the Reagan era the social conservatives sought to completely dominate the Republican Party. They almost took it completely over. In the end however they fell short.
But don’t feel bad guys, you still have a place at the table. Right next to GOProud.
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