CPAC’s side

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Over at NRO, Daniel Foster makes the case for including the gay conservative group GOProud at CPAC. His arguments (which tend to focus on electoral calculations) seem reasonable.

But since nobody is presenting CPAC’s presumed side of the argument (at least, not that I have seen), the task falls to me to explain why this controversy is more complex than it might appear.

First, it is very important to note that CPAC is not banning GOProud leaders or members from attending the conference. This is a key point that is often mistaken. I’m not sure anyone could muster a defense of not allowing individuals to pay and attend.

Instead, what CPAC has said is that GOProud (and some other groups) won’t be included among CPAC’s co-sponsors. (Sponsorship presumably comes with perks, such as speaking slots, etc.)

This raises an obvious question: Does CPAC have the right to decide whom they will partner with?

It seems to me that the libertarian position (which, presumably most of the folks urging GOProud’s inclusion identify as) is to say that the conferences’s organizers have the right to partner with whomever they choose — and for whatever reason they choose.

You and I might think this is an unwise decision, but we might also defend their right to run their conference any way they see fit. After all, nobody is stopping us from starting a better conservative conference (with better music). Wouldn’t that be the rugged individualist/entrepreneurial move?

Though I like the GOProud folks personally and appreciate their point, I’m less than enamored with their tactics of agitation. It never stops. This might be an effective way to advance a social agenda, but it also strikes me as taking a page from the Left. It doesn’t feel conservative.

In any event, it’s also important to ask why CPAC is doing this. To understand CPAC’s decision is to understand the three-legged stool of the conservative movement (social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and national defense conservatives.)

Presumably, GOProud’s inclusion is not welcomed by some social conservatives, who find their views at odds with traditional conservatism. This is their right. Litmus tests might lead to smaller tents, but where do you draw the line? Would CPAC allow a socially conservative group that advocated for higher taxes — or a fiscally conservative group that advocated for a smaller military as a primary part of their agenda — to co-sponsor?

Conversely, would Netroots Nation give the NRA (they are non-partisan, after all) a platform to pay to speak at their conference?

When is it okay to turn down a group who wants to co-sponsor your conference?

These are all questions worth debating. My guess is that the pro-tax hike group wouldn’t be invited to co-sponsor. But maybe I’m wrong…

UPDATE: Keying off Jon Huntsman’s recent embrace of gay marriage last week, HotAir’s Allahpundit raised some important questions that will confront conservatives whether they like it or not. This strikes me as possibly part of this larger debate:

“I’ve heard the argument a lot lately in the immigration context that GOP policies can’t and won’t get a fair hearing from an alienated demographic until they move towards the center on a key issue. We need a path to citizenship ASAP not because that’ll instantly win us 50 percent of the Latino vote but because it’ll thaw Republican relations with Latinos and leave them more apt to consider conservative ideas on things like spending. Here’s Huntsman making that argument not only on immigration but on gay marriage —and drug policy. In which case, a question: How much of the current Democratic social agenda should the GOP adopt in order to earn a fair hearing with otherwise reliably Democratic constituencies? Shouldn’t we think about moderating on abortion too to gain a “fair hearing” from younger single women? He’s basically nudging conservatives to go full libertarian in the interest of advancing their fiscal program, which would work great if not for the fact that there are lots and lots and lots and lots of conservatives who aren’t libertarian and will surely only stand for so much deviation from their social beliefs.” (Emphasis mine.)

Matt K. Lewis