Note: Below is the excellent letter sent by four conservative leaders to the CPAC chairman regarding the participation of a radical left-wing social organization in the conference that begins this week.
Mr. David Keene, Chairman
Conservative Political Action Conference
c/o American Conservative Union
1007 Cameron St., Alexandria, VA 22314
We the undersigned write to inform you that our organizations have decided not to participate in the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) due to the planned participation of the [homosexual activist] organization known as GOProud.
We do not make this decision lightly. We believe that, in general, the conservative movement is strengthened by the presence within it of organizations that give priority to particular, even single, issues. It is not necessary for each group within a political movement to embrace the fullness of a detailed and defined philosophy. But it is necessary for each group within any coherent movement not to stand in diametrical opposition to one or more of its core principles. It is our conviction that the institution of marriage and the family qualify-historically, philosophically and empirically-as such core principles. An organization committed to the ultimate abandonment of the legal and social meaning of marriage by definition disqualifies itself from recognition as a partner in the conservative cause.
We have examined closely GOProud’s mission and its behavior since its inception, and can only conclude that the organization’s purposes are fundamentally incompatible with a movement that has long embraced the ideals of family and faith in a thriving civil society. Needless to say, we are deeply persuaded that a thriving civil society is an indispensable bulwark against the relentless expansion of government, a phenomenon that has gripped much of the Western world and helped to fuel the present fiscal and economic crisis.
GOProud states prominently on its web site that it supports a “traditional conservative agenda” that includes “limited government,” “individual liberty,” “free markets,” and a “confident foreign policy.” This is a traditional conservative agenda, minus one – traditional values. The issue is not that GOProud works on only four of the five traditional items on the conservative agenda – rather, it omits – because it actively opposes – one part of the core. It is no more acceptable as a participant at CPAC than a group that said it embraced the “traditional conservative agenda” but actively worked for higher taxes and greater governmental control of the economy.
If it is argued that such a hypothetical organization cannot be found, that only underscores the impossibility of imagining how such an organization could exist with an internally contradictory and self-defeating purpose. The truth is that conservatism has placed so much emphasis on, and trust in, the institutions of civil society because it is inconceivable that the public conditions of economic freedom and national strength can subsist when the institutions of marriage and family are subverted. It is no accident that historical Marxism has not limited itself to advancement of economic statism, but has also set its face like flint against the family, the church, and any other institution of civil society that serves the fundamental human need for community and mediates between the individual and the state. Such institutions are indispensable if a nation is to remain both strong and free.
It is also clear that GOProud’s reason-to-be is built around a form of identity politics that conservative thought formally rejects because of its understanding of human nature. Each item on its broadly stated agenda can be pursued, and is being pursued, by groups that do not focus on such identity politics. Rather than join as individuals and be welcomed and respected into these groups, GOProud pursues policy outcomes that are rooted not in the broad conservative principles it claims to support but in the identity – in this case, sexual and behavioral identity – politics it advocates. This politics inevitably leads to outcomes that confront the conservative core, as Christopher Barron, chairman of GOProud, seemed to acknowledge in a statement to The Advocate in July 2010 that underscored his personal support for same-sex marriage and a long-term strategy to impose it.
But GOProud has done more than simply omit a core tenet of conservatism from its agenda. It has demonstrated that its agenda includes assaults on the very conservative leadership that has brought our movement a fresh opportunity to steer our nation once again onto the right course. At a time when the rest of the conservative movement has been focused on how to convert the overwhelming election victory of November 2 into a policy advance that strengthens both the economic and social underpinnings of our republic, GOProud has chosen this very hour to attempt to attack Sen. Jim DeMint and even question his place, and the place of those of us who share his socially conservative views, in the conservative movement.
Seizing on Sen. DeMint’s unexceptionable remarks that classroom teachers not only present ideas to but represent role models for the young, Mr. Barron told MSNBC that this able leader, who helped bring to Washington a class of legislators that is giving the conservative movement renewed hope after four years in the political wilderness, “has given up the ability to lead on any issues conservatives care about.” After a decade in which the transgressions of leaders in the conservative movement helped to fuel major political defeat and create the conditions for the election of the most liberal White House and Congress in U.S. history, this response to Sen. DeMint is both ill-informed and ill-timed. It is, however, consistent with GOProud’s creed of excluding traditional values, and those who champion them, from the conservative core. This is an odd way to treat the conservative majority of what is now a national majority.
Exclusion of GOProud would not be without precedent in the modern history of conservatism. In 1962 William F. Buckley, Jr., called on the Republican Party and the conservative movement generally to dissociate themselves from the John Birch Society. There was no doubt then that the Birch Society embraced such principles as anti-communism and limited government. Yet Buckley and others rightly recognized that there were views its founder and leader possessed, and transmitted to the organization, that, as he wrote in the pages of National Review, were “far removed from common sense.” Buckley concluded, “We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner.”
A political generation ago, the John Birch Society embraced conspiracy theories about President Eisenhower, challenging his anti-communist credentials. Today GOProud describes Jim DeMint’s culturally conservative views as “bizarre.”
We believe that the “emblem of irresponsibility” now is the idea that conservatives can embrace the overthrow of a core institution of civil society, marriage and the conjugal relationship on which it is based, and expect our nation to prosper. This view is as far removed from common sense as the notions that drove an earlier generation of conservatives to delimit their association with an organization that shared a significant portion of their views on foreign and economic policy.
A vibrant conservative coalition must rest upon the powerful and mutually trusting alliance of social and economic conservatives. As Prof. Robert George has recently written, “Basic shared principles should lead serious social conservatives to be economic conservatives as well, and serious economic conservatives to be social conservatives, too. A sound conservatism will, as a matter of principle, honor limited government, restrained spending, honest money, and low taxes, while at the same time upholding the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions, the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and the protection of the innocence of children.” Russell Kirk expressed a similarly coherent philosophy in his essay, “Ten Conservative Principles,” where he described the need for an enduring moral order, as well as an “affection for the proliferating intricacy of long-established social institutions and modes of life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and deadening egalitarianism of radical systems.”
What is at stake in your decision regarding the partnership of GOProud in next year’s CPAC is precisely this: will CPAC embrace a deadening egalitarianism at the expense of marriage and the family as long-established social institutions? This is not a decision merely for one event but a fundamental question for the integrity of the conservative cause.
Frank Cannon, President – American Principles Project
Gary Bauer, President – American Values
Mathew Staver, President and Founder – Liberty Counsel
Brian S. Brown, President – National Organization for Marriage