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Defining Conservatism and the GOP(roud)

Several big-gun conservative organizations, including Family Research Council, have vowed to boycott this year's Conservative Political Action Conference due to the admission as a "participating organization" of GOProud, a conservative gay group.

Contrary to the left's summation of this infighting as an expression of conservative bigotry, there's an interesting struggle to define and identify the meaning of "conservative." GOProud's website opens with a joint statement with Club for Growth, and their mission states:

GOProud represents gay conservatives and their allies. GOProud is committed to a traditional conservative agenda that emphasizes limited government, individual liberty, free markets and a confident foreign policy. GOProud promotes our traditional conservative agenda by influencing politics and policy at the federal level.

Not a lot of focus on gay-themed issues. And GOProud Chairman Chris Barron did conservatism well in a recent appearance on MSNBC with the despicable Cenk Uyger.

FRC and the other protestors rebut that conservatism requires all three of Reagan's legs: economic, foreign (national defense) and social. 2 out of 3 is bad. Could a pro-choice group qualify as conservative by opposing Obama-care and higher taxes?

Surely there must be room for diversity within the big tent, while some principles must remain non-negotiable. Do DADT, gay-marriage and the like qualify as contradicting core foundations of the movement?  

As an aside, Democrats certainly love this conflict, as they'd like to ensure that all minorities - sexual, gender, racial, economic, etc. - de facto identify with and default to the Democratic party. It would be a mistake to allow this strategy to flourish, and the GOP should forcefully unveil this tactic as mere rabble-rousing - the sowing of dissention and proselytization of victimization.

Categories > Conservatism

Discussions - 24 Comments

It is impossible to be simultaneously conservative and pro-gay rights. Why? Because conservative values have always viewed homosexuality as either an ailment or a perversion (and still do, for the most part).

In reading your synoposis of GOProud's platform, it's almost pure libertarianism, which is telling. There really isn't much room there for social conservativism. Moreover, if that's their entire agenda, why identify themselves as a gay group? Essentially, this is a Trojan Horse, and I'm with FRC and others in resisting this. Let 'em vote Democrat.

I think you would do well to recall Fr. Richard John Neuhaus' proverb: "when orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed". Can, in a given forum, the promotion of homosexuality co-exist with the critique of homosexuality? It would be helpful to have an understanding of the social and psychological mechanisms involved, but the experience of the last 35 years suggests the answer is "not for very long".

Something that I have been thinking about: is a principled conservatism based upon the Founder's natural rights arguments at all compatible with a group that foremost identifies themselves as gay but that seems to at least agree with conservatives ends?

It seems, however, that one of the problems with modern conservatism has been its relativism and positivism, as has been shown by Harry Jaffa and Hadley Arkes. Should this sort of positivism or relativism be overlooked to make the tent bigger or is there something fundamental here that strikes at the heart of the regime?

How does Hadley Arkes qualify as a 'relativist' and 'positivist'?

Mike's wording is a little awkward, but I think he meant to say Harry Jaffa and Hadley Arkes have shown that relativism and positivism are problems with modern conservatism.

Arkes is most definitely not a positivist; he is a strong proponent of natural law. All I said was that he and Jaffa have shown for years - and continue to show - that underlying much of modern conservatism is the same relativism and positivism that flows under modern liberalism.

Jaffa and Arkes work in advocating for a return to a natural rights jurisprudence is a great antidote for the ails of modern conservativism.

Yep, just re-read my original post, and it was not exactly what I wanted to say, thanks.

Is it relevant to this discussion to point out that the GOP is never going to hold the presidency again without getting at least some votes from voters who favor gay rights and abortion rights?

I am not particularly sympathetic to either of these causes, but you simply cannot expect to win many elections outside of Utah, say, if you actively alienate any one who holds social views of the sort that prevail among the highly educated and affluent. Certainly, this gay group should at least be allowed to participate in CPAC, even if most activist conservatives disagree with them on gay marriage.

Not everyone who votes, or might be persuaded to vote, for Republican candidates signs on to the whole Harry Jaffa/natural rights program. Some just like free market capitalism, free speech, prosperity, and security against our various enemies in the world.

The same argument could be offered in just the same way about any of the Democratic Party's pet causes. It would be just as invalid.

CPAC is not the Republican Party. Nor is it the institution that defines conservatism. (The FRC isn't, for that matter, either.) You can argue whether it's wise for CPAC to allow (or exclude) a gay Republican group to participate, but the GOP will move on nonetheless. Successful political coalitions always must deal with internal disagreements.

Art Deco has it right. A group that defines itself by reference to a personal predeliction, viz., homosexuality, the practioners or advocates of which have a propensity to redefine morality in order to accommodate their demands, does not have the best interests of the Republican party, much less the nation, at heart. A political party that, in its orgins, denounced polygamy, not less than slavery, as a relic of barbarism, cannot make a "big tent" for homosexuality. We must resist this challenge to common-sense morality, just as we do abortion.

Great. You've just condemned the GOP to permanent minority status. Congratulations.

You have made a dubious factual assertion to which you have made not the slightest attempt to add any depth.

The last time I saw a piece of social survey research which purported to show the political preferences of self-identified homosexuals was about 15 years ago. There are a number of methodological problems with that sort of polling. That aside, it had Republicans outnumbered by a margin of 6 to 1. The outer boundary of that population encompasses about 3% of the adult population, so you offend about 0.5% thereof.

Apart from that, I think it a safe wager that people for whom solicitude toward the homosexual population is decisive in determining their electoral preferences already vote Democratic.

Against these charges, you set the majority who, when asked, tend to be quite resistant to the salient elements of the gay lobby's current agenda. It is your considered opinion that the otherwise unaffiliated among them are 1. smaller in number than these other two sectors or 2. have views that merit no representation in the public sphere.

The answers to your implicit assertions are:

1. Fat chance.

2. Put your cards on the table and make your case.

AD - I am not a political junkie who memorizes polling data, so I have no "cards" to put on the table other than my common sense observations, for whatever they may be worth. In case you're interested, my response to you is that the issue is not whether the GOP can win the "gay" vote (or, to take another example, abortion activists and Reform rabbis (pretty much the same thing)), but of getting the votes of upper middle class suburban "swing" voters a/k/a "independents." These people, by and large, want to think of themselves as "tolerant" as that concept has been defined for them by the major opinon-shaping organs of our society (which, sadly, do not include Claremont Review, notwithstanding its excellence). However little we may respect the swing voters (and I find them appalling), the fact remains that they decide elections. At a minimum, in my view, this means accepting pro-choicers and gay-marriage supporters (like Scott Brown, e.g.) into the coalition. You seem to be assuming that there's some sort of "silent majority" out there ready, willing and able to be led on a crusade to re-impose the social norms of middle America circa 1960. As I previously suggested, maybe in Utah. I would also point out that the opponents of gay marriage and abortion that show up in polling likely include members of minority communities, whose votes are out of reach for other reasons.

djf, voters who vacillate may be motivated by any number of reasons or by no reason that has any relevance to public policy. You win some and you lose some with whatever move you make. Why are you so concerned with this particular group of swingers?

That aside, voters also vacillate between participation and non-participation. If you abandon constituencies, their members stay home.

Advocates of issuing marriage licenses to pairs of dudes have repeatedly lost referenda in the open ward otherwise known as the State of California. In Iowa, a state whose dispositions are near the median of American opinion, a bench of appellate judges who attempted to impose 'gay marriage' were just blown out of office in retention referenda. Social questions are not electoral losers; there is no reason for you to assert that they are.

I don't think single issue referenda are good indicators of the prospect of getting control of government on the basis of that issue, or a group of similar issues. In any event, the anti-gay-marriage proposition passed by a very narrow margin in California, as I recall. As to voters vacillating, apparently this does not happen much among, say, African American voters, notwithstanding that many of them tell pollsters that they oppose gay marriage, abortion, support the death penalty, etc. I think you and I will have to agree to disagree on this. However, I would point out that you've defined the acceptable range of views within conservatism so narrowly that you would apparently exclude Charles Krauthamer and even Norman Podhoretz.

I don't think single issue referenda are good indicators of the prospect of getting control of government on the basis of that issue, or a group of similar issues.

You were the one who said a decisive share of the electorate would cast their vote on the basis of this single issue, and that we all had to curry favor with them to the exclusion of everyone else. When you've sorted out what you think, get back to me.

I would point out that you've defined the acceptable range of views within conservatism so narrowly that you would apparently exclude Charles Krauthamer and even Norman Podhoretz.

I have had occasion to read the writings of both men for over 25 years. Mr. Podhoretz has a long history as a low-temperature antagonist of the gay lobby and Dr. Krauthammer has shown no particular concern for them. And, of course, neither man has sought to construct even a letter-head organization which would carry as a defining feature making a public point of your sexual disorders. So, no, they are not excluded.

AD wrote in reply to me: "You were the one who said a decisive share of the electorate would cast their vote on the basis of this single issue, and that we all had to curry favor with them to the exclusion of everyone else. When you've sorted out what you think, get back to me."

AD, you are the one saying we should affirmatively cast people with certain views OUT of conservatism, effectively turning them into single issue voters. I'm merely suggesting that conservatism, if it is going to survive, needs to permit a range of views on social issues. If common ground is to be found, I would suggest, a la Peter Berkowitz, that it be on the principle that these questions should be decided democratically at the appropriate government level, not by judicial fiat.

As to Krauthamer and Podhoretz, I think they're both essentially unopposed to gay marriage, like most of the neocon wing of the movement (visit the Contentions site some time). I should add that your strict test would exclude virtually all libertarians and most of the corporate "right" (we might not like the latter, but we need them).

If you believe the GOP is poised to take over the Senate and White House in 2012 on a tidal wave of socially conservative populist sentiment, it is not my personal mission to change your mind.

I should add that your strict test would exclude virtually all libertarians and most of the corporate "right" (we might not like the latter, but we need them).

Not unless virtually all libertarians and most of the corporate right are conducting organizing drives and fund-raising pitches constructed around the sexual deviance of the fund-raisers and organizers.

My reasoning is delineated above, as is Redwald's. There comes a point where you have to make choices and have to have boundary conditions, or your cause is without content. You can have libertarians who are exhibitionistic about their sexual problems or you can have vigorous advocates of traditional family relations. You cannot have both. The social dynamic which ensues when gay groups get a place at the table is another issue and is reflected in the positions you offer in this conversation: their opposition is expected to pay up and shut up. No thanks.

Your characterization of Dr. Krauthammer and Mr. Podhoretz is a projection. Even were it not, they are in common cause with people for whom this issue is motivating and have to make their trades.

I find it interesting that you make repeated references to the electoral implications of this or that while saying you are not familiar with opinion polling.

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What exactly makes Cenk Uygur "despicable"?

I see that Ann Coulter has also called him "retarded":
http://twitter.com/AnnCoulter/status/20731025923506176

Will Your Sarah take to her Facebook wall to scold Ann?

Tune in tomorrow, for another episode of As My Stomach Turns.

You know, I find the comments from "wholesale brand handbags" to be a lot more insightful than yours.

Also, what kind of stupid name is "Cenk Uyger"?

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