On GOProud and CPAC

On July 29, 2011, in General, by Neil Stevens

I’d like to put something out there about GOProud, conservatives, and the Republican party. I’m seeing some people having very strong reactions to the ACU’s decision to disallow future Conservative Political Action Conference sponsorship by GOProud. Some of these reactions are coming from people I respect in the greater Republican coalition of right-wing politics.

Make no mistake: I have no desire to kick anybody out of the GOP. I routinely cooperate with libertarians, some of whom I have sharp disagreement with on vital issues, because there are a great many issues we do agree on, and can do good things with to move the ball forward. That’s coalition politics 101, and why Ronald Reagan was a proponent of the big tent Republican Party.

But what is good for the GOP is not necessarily what’s good for CPAC. And that’s why I’m also happy to see the ACU make it stand, as reported by the Daily Caller today.

As we all know, CPAC is an old conference that, much like Red State Gathering, started off as a small meeting of like-minded individuals. It may be hard for some people to fathom, though, but in 1973 conservatism was not the mantle that every Republican rushed to claim. This was before the fall of the Soviet Union, before Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation, before we both cut taxes and broke the back of inflation, and created the greatest peacetime expansion of the economy in 100 years. This was before Ronald Reagan’s success made it impossible for the Republican Party to reject conservatism entirely.

This was a time when the Republican left wing would often make open war with conservatives. If you think it’s bad now, look back to what they used to say about Reagan and conservatives before he beat Governor Brown the Elder in 1966:

The previous year, Kuchel had blasted the conservative Republican movement in California as “A fanatical, neo-Fascist, political cult, overcome by a strange mixture of corrosive hatred and sickening fear.”

These skeptics were joined by Republican State Assemblyman Howard J. Thelin, who endorsed Gov. Brown shortly before election day. Thelin called the Reagan campaign “a conspiracy of powerful, well financed forces dominated by extreme views,” and so Reagan’s defeat was “vital to the future of the Republican Party.” (Wash. Post, 10/28/66).

It was also considered an attack to tie Reagan to Human Events (owned by Eagle Publishing, which owns RedState.com), today one of the major sponsors of CPAC. Reagan would go on to speak at CPAC himself 12 times.

Reagan supported a GOP Big Tent because he knew full well what it was to be in the minority in the Republican party. He suffered every attack imaginable, and just kept on working. He didn’t lash out and call left-wing Republicans any names like nasty bigot. He’s the one who got called a fascist and a cultist, in fact. But there was one place he could go to be among friends, and that was CPAC. It’s no wonder he spoke there so much.

That’s why I support the ACU in its decision. Not because I want to run anyone out of the party, or because I don’t want to be able to work with GOProud and other groups to achieve good things for the country under the GOP Big Tent. But because CPAC is supposed to be one place where conservatives get a break from what we get called every other week of the year.

Politics ain’t beanbag, but our side has many venues for fighting out our differences. We’ve got party offices and platform committees, we’ve got numerous primary elections, and we even have Twitter these days. With all of these avenues for hashing it out, I don’t need to be hectored at CPAC. I just don’t.

If Reason Magazine and GOProud decided to get together and create their own conference, like Human Events and the ACU do today with CPAC, I would not feel hurt one bit if they decided to exclude groups fighting for traditional values from sponsoring the event. Go ahead, tell Rick Santorum he’s not welcome at your shindig. That’s fine with me.

When it comes to the Republican Party, we’re all on the same team. But it doesn’t mean we don’t need space for ourselves sometimes. That’s why I value RedState, and why I value the ACU’s decisions for CPAC.

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