Every winter, a large gathering of conservatives journey to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). It is a gathering that first took place in 1973. Conservative politicians, authors, activists, and organizations come by the thousands to discuss and debate how the conservative movement will venture forward. This year's conference will take place next week at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park hotel. As someone who has been to CPAC in the past, I am looking forward to attending again next week.
However, this year there has been an alarming occurrence that I believe will only be detrimental to the future of the conservative movement if it develops into a trend. Certain groups and individuals have chosen not to attend this year's CPAC out of protest because of the inclusion of one particular organization named GOProud. Groups that are boycotting CPAC include the Family Research Council, the Media Research Center, the Liberty Council, the American Family Association, Concerned Women of America, the National Organization for Marriage, and Washington's largest conservative think-tank, the Heritage Foundation.
If one were to visit GOProud's homepage, they would see that the group's mission statement reads, "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." As anyone can see, this is a group that clearly believes that a limited and smaller federal government is the best kind of government for the American people. So, what's the problem with them appearing at CPAC? The problem for the boycotting organizations is that GOProud represents gay conservatives. They are choosing to stay away this year, because they will not participate in a conference that allows homosexuals to be part of the conservative movement.
This kind of boycott is extremely dangerous. For this first time in years, conservatives are starting to make a resurgence against big-government liberals, and some of the organizations that were key to this comeback are choosing to boycott the largest conservative gathering of the year simply because GOProud represents homosexuals who desire more individual freedom? What a disaster.
Representatives and members of the boycotting groups will simply state that social issues are important to conservatism and that their absence is not about sexuality or personality, but about the issues. I could not agree more. As a result, I say, stop complaining about who is in attendance, show up, and debate these issues! If they are so important to you and your organization, then they are worth fighting for at CPAC. State your case and explain why your view is better for conservative advancement than those who disagree with you.
GOProud is a young organization that is not afraid to show up to a conference where the environment might not be entirely friendly to their members. What does that say about them? It says that they are willing to fight for limited government, even if it means having to ruffle some feathers. Individual liberty is that important to them. They understand that as conservatives, they are probably in agreement with the other attendees on 80-90% of the issues. The issue of homosexuals being treated equally under the law should not be one that keeps conservative groups away from CPAC. Jimmy LaSalvia, Executive Director of GOProud, has even been quoted saying, "CPAC is an important event and I hope that all conservatives will join in participating." His organization does not advocate anyone's exclusion. Boycotting the conference simply because GOProud will be there is a cowardly act.
I for one am very proud to stand with David Keene, Andrew Breitbart, and other conservatives who welcome GOProud to this year's event. They too are Americans with a voice, and they deserve to be heard. The more people we exclude, the more we continue to isolate ourselves. At this point in our nation's history, we cannot afford to make such a mistake.
John Stapleton is the deputy editor of The New Guard -- the official magazine of Young Americans for Freedom. He received his MA in Comparative Politics from American University in May 2009 and lives with his wife, Nealey, in Chevy Chase, Maryland.