Are gays the salvation of the GOP?

That standing-room only crowd at the CPAC gay panel? Well, there was free booze. And the room was tiny. And a significant portion of attendees were journalists. Not what they'd have you believe.
Tue Mar 26, 2013 - 8:27 pm EST

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 26, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – Republicans got handed a crushing defeat last November, no doubt about it.  In the aftermath of those crushing losses, the party is scrambling to figure out exactly what went wrong … and try to fix it.  A growing number of social libertarians within the GOP are looking to homosexuals as the salvation of the party.  One of them is Lawson Bader, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

Bader, who took the helm of CEI just two months ago, hosted an unofficial panel/happy hour at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) called “Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition, Bringing Tolerance out of the Closet.”  The panel, which featured National Review’s Jonah Goldberg, GOProud president Jimmy LaSalvia, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, Margaret Hoover, and libertarian strategist Liz Mair, was held in reaction to CPAC officials declining to allow homosexual activist group GOProud to sponsor the conference. 

Since CEI wasn’t banned as a sponsor, they essentially offered up their session to GOProud.


Bader wrote a column in the Daily Caller defending CEI’s choice to lend GOProud their platform.

“I became the president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) two months ago, and I’m already considered a Marxist?” Bader wrote.  “I’ve been asked why I have sworn off a life of right-of-center policy and fundraising work in order to promote known communist sympathizers. I’ve been asked why I’m moving so quickly to destroy CEI’s reputation. Someone even threatened to turn my own church against me.  All because we at CEI decided to hold a panel discussion at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on how to bring gays and others into the conservative movement.”

Wow.  It sounds like homosexual activists are really unpopular in the Republican party.

But then, Bader wrote this:  “[T]he right is far more open to this kind of dialogue than most people think,” Bader wrote in the Daily Caller. “Outside of those few crank emails and isolated negative columns, the response to our event was overwhelmingly positive. It was so crowded that fire marshals had to block people from entering.”

Well, yes.  That’s generally to be expected when you hold a glorified happy hour in a room that holds 100 at a conference with 8,000 attendees and a hotel bar that’s running out of beer.

CEI and GOProud aren’t stupid.  That much is obvious.  Their timing was brilliant – the event was held at the same time as a VIP reception and, in a stroke of further genius, offered booze.  Anyone wanting a drink after a long day of speeches could pay $1500 to hobnob with policymakers, wait in a ridiculous line to pay $12 per drink at the hotel bar (where they were out of several kinds of beer), brave the frigid March winds to walk to a restaurant … or take five steps off the main hall and drink with GOProud.    I was actually surprised more people didn’t take advantage.

Not that they would have been able to.  The room was small.  Very small.  It was held in two meeting rooms combined into one by retracting a divider. Each side had a capacity of about 60.  One half of the room held the panelists’ table and about fifty chairs.  The other half was the bar area.

The small size of the room worked to CEI’s and GOProud’s advantage.  They wanted a standing-room only crowd, and they got one.  At one point, a panelist shouted gleefully to the reporters at the back of the room, “Make sure you report it was standing-room only!”  Most outlets dutifully did exactly that, never mentioning how small the room was compared to other venues in the same hotel.

Sure, but 100 people turning out to support homosexuality in the GOP is still news, right?  Well, wait a minute.  Not everyone was there to support GOProud.  I, for one, attended the event out of obligation – as a reporter, it was my job to cover it.  It appeared I was far from alone.  Out of the roughly one hundred people packed into the small space, I estimated about half had yellow media passes hanging around their necks.  We who were being paid to be there stood in the back half of the room, next to the bar, using the pub tables that had been intended for drinking to balance laptops and iPads as we typed away, tragically sober.  The rest of the attendees were a mixed crowd – curious young gawkers, thirsty folks eyeing the bar, a few subtle hecklers, and yes, a group of about twenty-five or thirty hardcore supporters of homosexuality sitting up near the front, like eager beavers on the first day of school.

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These folks listened with rapt attention as speaker after speaker argued that homosexuals are the future of the Republican party … that without their support, the GOP cannot win.  The argument echoed similar arguments made at a number of identity-politics-based panels throughout the day.  ‘Without Latinos, the GOP can’t win, so we need to support amnesty.’  ‘Without women, the GOP can’t win, so we need to drop our opposition to abortion.’  But this argument was incomplete.  ‘Without gays, the GOP can’t win, so we need to … ‘  What, exactly?  The group seemed to be unable to agree on what the GOP must do to gain the homosexual vote. 

Redefine marriage?  Jimmy LaSalvia, GOProud president, seemed to say no to that.  “I don’t believe that because someone opposes same sex 'marriage,' that automatically makes them a homophobe,” he said. “Opposing gay 'marriage' isn’t bigotry.” 

Okay, then, what about civil unions?  Goldberg favors them, but both Liz Mair, wearing an “I [heart] Freedom to Marry” t-shirt, and Margaret Hoover poo-poohed the concept, saying it’s not true equality unless it’s called marriage, too.  Hoover also said she intended to pick a fight with Goldberg after the panel over his view that the gay “marriage” issue would be better left to individual states than the federal government.

LaSalvia said he’d be content if the GOP simply got over its “bigotry.” “In 2013 those who demonize gay people and oppose homosexuality are way out of the mainstream,” he said. “Everyone has a gay person in their family.”

Statistically speaking, unless everyone’s family includes about 33 people, that’s impossible.  Homosexuals are estimated to comprise about three percent of the population.  Which should prompt GOP leaders to ask: is it worth compromising our values to try to buy the votes of that three percent?  Moreover, is it even possible?  Yes, there are conservative gays.  Jimmy LaSalvia is one of them.  But surely not every person with same-sex attraction will magically jump ship to vote Republican if only they’d get over their stodgy support for traditional marriage.  Surely there are other issues driving at least some gays to vote for Democrats.  Surely they’re not all closet fiscal conservatives.

Perhaps Jonah Goldberg said it best during his awkward, as he called it, “first and last” appearance on a “Rainbow” panel.  If the GOP drops its support for traditional marriage in a desperate bid to win over a portion of the homosexual vote, he wondered, “Show me where you’re going to replace the 20 or 30 million social conservatives.”

Here’s a hint, GOP: Not with a few dozen people in a makeshift bar who can’t even seem to agree on what they actually want from you.

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