GOProud, the wingnutty cousin to the Goldwater conservatives at Log Cabin, announced last week that they'd be co-sponsoring the CPAC (big, annual conservative conference famous for homophobia). A few people pointed out that they'd be cosponsoring with folks like NOM and Focus on the Family, and apparently those other groups don't want to be involved in an event with GOProud. Culture War Clowns Peter Labarbera and Matt Barber, of the small-beans conservative group Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH), had a hearty discussion on the subject:
Now CPAC's tenuous "Big Tent" could collapse altogether as social conservatives led by Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber threaten to launch a boycott of the conference (scheduled for Feb. 18-20, 2010) unless CPAC drops a homosexual activist group, GOProud, as a co-sponsor. Barber, my good friend, an AFTAH Board Member, and the Director of Cultural Affairs at Liberty Counsel, is leading the charge to keep the CPAC sponsorship list ... conservative.
GOProud describes itself as "the only national organization for gay conservatives and their allies," but we at AFTAH dispute their definition of "conservative," which would have the movement's Founding Fathers, like Russell Kirk (see quotation at bottom), rolling over in their graves.
The question is, ultimately, how much of the ideological differences between the left and right have to do with the culture war. GOProud is fairly ideologically pure when it comes to being conservative - they advocate pretty much the same vision for America that Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter would (no social safety net, no equality, more power to police and military, more guns but less butter).
The question becomes less about what conservatism is about, and more who conservatives are. And, as you'd imagine, that's a big topic to take on.
Other than a few gay issues like DADT and same-sex marriage, GOProud's politics are standard-issue rightwing ideology.
The issues where they do disagree have less to do with their ideology and more to do with their identity - that is, if they were to magically become straight, it's doubtful they'd hold the same positions on DADT and same-sex unions. It's a hole in their ideological battle, so they created a specific group to address the fact that they're just as short-sighted, authoritarian, sexist, and racist as other Republicans, but that they can't really be as homophobic because they're gay.
That's where it gets interesting. This group doesn't question why authoritarianism and sexism are generally found side-by-side with homophobia. That'd be an ideological question that would end up moving some of the group's members to the left. But to people who buy into the same ideology but who are straight (like Labarbera), the connection is obviously:
It boils down to this: there is nothing "conservative" about -- as Barber inimitably puts it -- "one man violently cramming his penis into another man's lower intestine and calling it 'love.'" Or two women awkwardly mimicking natural procreative relations or raising a child together in an intentionally fatherless home. This does not mean that people practicing those and other immoral (and changeable) behaviors cannot think and act conservatively on other issues like lowering taxes, cutting government spending, ending abortion, etc. But let's be honest: the "proud" in GOProud is not about pride in opposing the death tax, or defending the right to bear arms; it's about proudly embracing sinful homosexual behavior - and that is hardly a conservative value.
I challenge every thinking conservative to explain why we should jettison our nation's Judeo-Christian heritage (which clearly rejects homosexual acts as immoral) for some new, secularized brand of "conservatism" that fails to conserve natural, normal, and noble sex within God-ordained marriage. Where does the expansion of "conservatism" stop? Would CPAC welcome "Republicans for Abortion" as a co-sponsor? How about "Conservatives For Higher Taxes"? We doubt it. So let's stop the double-standard on one issue -- homosexuality -- that happens to be politically incorrect in this decadent age.
It's all the same matzo ball for most people. GOProud opposes women's reproductive freedom, like other ideological rightwingers, but doesn't oppose same-sex relationships. Labarbera, here, points out that both positions come from the same root idea: forcing people to all have families that look the same, with a patriarchal father and a mother who sticks to child-rearing, and shaming them when they don't.
Prayer in schools and DADT might seem unrelated, and a group like GOProud can advocate for one while opposing the other. There's really nothing that forces a gay person to realize that governing according to the Bible is a bad idea that will never help us. For Labarbera the connection is obvious between those issues; for GOProud, a semi-identity/semi-ideological advocacy group, the line gets blurred.
At some point, being on the rightwing does have to have some meaning, and the big tent really can't accommodate everyone. Republicans generally do a better job promoting ideological purity within their party (especially on taxes), and that's why if they ever got the majorities that the Democrats have now in Congress, along with the White House, they'd use them. Democrats are a lot looser when it comes to these sorts of questions.
Fundamentally, I believe that being on the left, liberal, a Democrat, whatever you want to call it, has become too much mush in the US. We aren't clear on what we want and what we stand for, and part of the problem is that we've built a coalition that alined for reasons related more to identity than ideology. That is, if you're on the Blue Team in the Culture War because of your sexuality, gender, geographic location, race, lifestyle, etc., then you're more likely to call yourself a member of the left or a liberal even if you don't really know much or care much about actual leftist or liberal ideology.
Same goes for the Red Team, although they're more ideologically coherent because they use litmus tests, like this one, to keep the flock in line.
These are interesting questions to me as it becomes more and more clear to me that the coalition built under the Obama campaign had little to do with issues and more to do with what Obama represented culturally. I'm not just referring to the fact that he was a Democrat or the first African American president, but also to the fact that he spoke to the emotional truth of the Blue Team in America's Culture War. These folks believed, contrary to all evidence, that his ideology represented their own because his identity, perceived through his diplomas, his race, his style of speaking, his intellectualism, and some of his actual statements, aligned with their own.
While he may have made it pretty clear that he would continue White House policy when it came to sucking Wall Street's cock and continuing the two useless wars we're fighting, many people didn't believe it because he looked and acted like a true blue liberal. I don't really get how those people who opposed the war in Afghanistan could be surprised that Obama wants to escalate that conflict, considering that he explicitly stated that he would, but those folks are living in the same world where identity is more important than ideology as the folks who opposed the wars when Bush was running them but now support them because Obama is (I don't know how many creepy defenses of "our man in the White House" I've read these past few week from Democrats, but it's been disheartening to see how much pro-peace sentiment from the Bush years was expressed not because people are anti-war but because they were anti-Bush).
We'll see how this one pans out, who will get to go to the CPAC and if the boycott will pick up enough steam or if conservatives will look the other way on GOProud's stances on gay issues. They want in on the ideological extreme right of the GOP, but their identity prevents them from being accepted as such. But, ultimately, what happens will be determined by power, and Matt Barber and Peter Labarbera, for all their bluster, are small players in the GOP.