With CPAC 2011 almost upon us, plenty of discussion has taken place over who will or won’t be attending. CPAC is something of a litmus test in the conservative community, particularly when we are gearing up for a presidential election. Since one bone of contention – at least for some – has been the inclusion of GOProud as a sponsor, Liz Mair composed a rather thoughtful analysis of the best fit for gays and lesbians in the Republican Party and the conservative movement in general.
The entire essay is worthwhile, but it boils down to a couple of key points. The first deals with the fallacy that gay voters are some sort of homogenous group which only cares about – as Liz terms it – “the gay stuff.”
Let’s just get it out there: A lot of people think gays and lesbians are naturally and should be liberal/Democrats because—wait for it—gay people only or mainly care about what I shorthand term “gay stuff.” You know, gay marriage, gay adoption, and so on and so forth. And then, just as you have within the straight population, there are people who think marriage is nice, and want gay relationships recognized but also think hey, you know what’s equally or more important? Killing terrorists, stopping ill-conceived policy like Obamacare, and not being spent-and-taxed to death.
Yes, it’s true: A lot of gays and lesbians do have concerns about the continued existence of the estate tax; concerns about the threat and potential spread of Islamic fundamentalism; concerns about the negative effects of Obamacare; concerns about our screwed up tax system, which takes too much money out of people’s pockets. You know what you typically call people with those kinds of concerns, no matter whether they are attracted to guys or girls and have boobies or not? You call them Republicans, conservatives, center-right, right-leaning libertarians, or some variation thereof.
The second part is a bit more tricky, and raises the question of whether or not the Democrats truly are more supportive of “the gay stuff” aforementioned, and precisely how out of line the GOP is. Liz points out that the positions of Barack Obama and George W. Bush on the gay marriage question were virtually identical. She also provides some background on the voting records of some big bad conservatives – along with several prominent Democrats – where votes on “the gay stuff” are concerned and delivers more than a few facts which may come as a surprise to some readers.
For me, trying to lump any group into one party or the other seems a futile effort. I’m reminded of a woman who contacted me during our last election, and still stays in touch with me to this day. She had seen my candidate at a press conference and though she was a Democrat, being very concerned over skyrocketing unemployment and debt, was impressed. But she closed her initial note to me with a disturbing comment.
“Please, please, please tell me he’s pro-choice.”
It wasn’t an unreasonable question since we have a lot of pro-choice Republicans in the Northeast, but it was not the case with my guy. Being in New York, I kept my pro-life Republican candidate from discussing abortion any more than was absolutely necessary. But I was forced to admit to her that he opposed the procedure. This led to a lengthy discussion where I explained that the vote of a single member of the House on such matters probably wouldn’t be a significant factor in the long term since any legislation proposed along those lines would probably wind up being tossed to the judicial branch anyway.
In the end, she informed me that she had indeed voted for my candidate, but noted that our discussion would prompt her to keep voting for Democratic presidents in the future so they nominate Supreme Court justices. I considered it a win, since she had previously voted a straight Democratic ticket anyway.
The point here, similar to what Liz Mair has demonstrated, is that there is certainly room in the conservative movement – and the Republican Party – for voters who agree with a broad swath of other principles even if they disagree with what we might assume are their “single voter” key issues.
Welcome to CPAC. The tent is looking a little bit bigger, and it’s hard to argue that this is a bad thing.