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Posted at 12:01 PM ET, 12/30/2010

Boycotting as a political strategy

By Jennifer Rubin

Pete Wehner writes a smart post on the decision by two social conservative groups to boycott the CPAC convention because GOProud, a conservative gay rights group, will attend. Pete makes the case that "the boycotting organizations come across as defensive and insecure, as if they fear that their arguments cannot win the day on the merits. Perhaps they can or perhaps they cannot; but for organizations to pick up their marbles and leave -- and in the process to accuse CPAC of engaging in a 'moral sell-out' and of committing an act of 'moral surrender' -- strikes me as small-minded and unwise."

I would add a couple of points. First, this is, I would suggest, not an isolated problem. With the repeal of don't ask, don't tell and a number of states' movement on gay marriage, social conservatives appear off balance and adrift. What issue should they focus on, and why are certain arguments not resonating with younger voters? If liberal social positions achieve majority support, what can be done -- or should be done? Can the success in swaying public opinion on issues like partial birth abortion be duplicated? These are difficult questions that require serious discussion. If they can't be discussed at a gathering of hardcore conservatives, how are these issues to be resolved?

Second, this is part of an unpleasant trend in politics to excommunicate those who don't check the box on every issue. Taken to its logical conclusion, the CPAC boycotters would want to toss from the party those senators who voted to repeal don't ask, don't tell, leaving conservatives' forces much diminished and dimming the chances for progress on a host of other issues. It might be personally satisfying, but pursuit of doctrinal purity is a recipe for permanent minority status.

For the 2012 presidential contenders, this is a early test: are they going to encourage and stand with the boycotters or leave them on the sidelines while stumping for votes and trying to broaden their own support? We'll find out.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 30, 2010; 12:01 PM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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This tendency on the part of social conservatives to purify by ex-coommunication is very disturbing. You are entirely right to wonder how we conservatives persuade the great middle that does not spend much time thinking through these issues if the religious conservatives among us are unwilling to hear and debate those who share most, if not all, of their views. There is a narrowness to this that reinforces the incorrect assumption of our political opponents that we are intolerant and/or afraid. It is a very troubling trend.

Posted by: gord2 | December 30, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Why would CPAC invite these 2 backwards groups in the first place?? Tell discriminatory groups they aren't welcome in the GOP. Good job, CPAC. (I'm a democrat)

Posted by: danw1 | December 30, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Why should CPAC allow hate groups to their events anyways?

Posted by: madest | December 30, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Talk about stealing a page from another's playbook...the Catholic church has been ex-communicating folks for centuries. I think they finally apologized to Galileo in 1965 (about 332 years too late).
Not surprising to learn that NOM and a couple of other anti-gay groups--identified as telling lies about gays and lesbians--are also running from the fight because they can't handle the truth.

Posted by: Truthseeker_Too | December 30, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I think half the men in the GOP are closeted gay men themselves, which is why they are constantly obsessing over it so often. They get really hot thinking of man on man action, but are too ashamed to admit it.

Posted by: BirchMan | December 30, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Cartoon Lady says: social conservatives appear off balance and adrift. What issue should they focus on, and why are certain arguments not resonating with younger voters?

The issue they should focus on is living moral lives personally if they plan to confuse religious fundamenatlism with right wing political fundamentalism. Young people are generally turned off by hyprocrisy in their elders.

When they see bible thumping/family values social conservatives like David Vitter, John Ensign, Mark Sanford, Christine O'Donnell having sex across the country side, stealing from their campaign funds, paying huge ethics fines, they are simply disgusted by learning that today's politician is primarily looking for a job with the most money, the best benefits and the least amount of work.

The positive that should come from what they observe is that these young people will decide to keep their politics separate from some politician's religion and run like hell when the bible thumping starts.

Posted by: edismae | December 30, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

These groups are the GOPs thought police.

Now socially conservative republicans can be labeled as being conservative PC.

Politically Correct Conservatism (PCC)

Posted by: nolamen | December 30, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Republicans are pure evil.

Republicans stood in unison against efforts this year to repeal the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bans gay men and women from serving openly in the armed forces.

The trickle down effect yea!!!! The trickle of liberties away from people! The new Republican way.
We trickle our tax dollars into Iraq and they get a tax break!! Awe! Republicans are kind after all!

OK all you Mormons and other self proclaimed profits. Your days of lies and deceit, your days for dividing people are dwindling.

What are you going to rejoice about when you get old?

That you stopped the gays from getting married for a short while or maybe that you disallowed the right of someone serving with honor in our military?

Well than; Mission Accomplished.

Republicans were rallying against gay people to get the votes of right-wing Christians, it turns out they too were gay.

Republican is just another word for hypocrite.

Ken Mehlman, who headed the Republican National Committee, should perform seppuku for the treachery that he committed on his fellow citizens.

Republicans are some of the most cowardly people this world has ever known.

Posted by: getcentered | December 30, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't it depend on whether it is an important issue to you?

Would pro-life groups be wrong in refusing to attend if pro-abortion groups were invited?

Would pro-Israel groups be wrong in refusing to attend if anti-Israel groups were invited?

The "check every box" argument really equals check boxes that aren't important to me.

Posted by: TD01 | December 30, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

"and why are certain arguments not resonating with younger voters?"

Because so many gay are out of the closet even in Jr HS/HS that non-gays are actually getting to individually know lots of gays,and they are getting along. So when the old fuddy duddy types start their gay bashing,it appears very offensive to many young people. The same process happened back when. There was national Jew and Black Bashing,the young people made that BS go away. Same process.

Posted by: rcaruth | December 30, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

My son who's in grad school is a political junkie who's more conservative than I am, that is, very conservative. Yet he was in favor of ending DADT and supports gay marriage unless it's imposed by judges. I'm opposed to both but think they are both fairly close calls. His generation sees it as a question of tolerance that outweighs concerns of military unit cohesion and preservation of traditional marriage. I don't.

I think conservatives should hold to their positions but realize that these are not winning issues politically. As with immigration, the conservative position, if not presented well, can be easily caricatured as bigotry. Conservatives must avoid this trap which reinforces media-promoted stereotypes of conservatives.

Conservatives have a 70/30 issue with limited government and fiscal responsibility. That's the issue they should continue to run on to elect more conservatives. Social conservatives should be able to understand that electing more conservatives on economic issues is the best way to slow the progressive social agenda.

Posted by: eoniii | December 30, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse


Thank you for your honesty. I am still puzzled how any conservative would advocate for discrimination in the military or with respect to marriage. These institutions are essential to responsible citizenship.

It will always be morally wrong to discriminate against gay Americans, i.e. fire them from a career in the military or deny them the opportunity for self-determination through marriage.

Posted by: nolamen | December 30, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Oh, also military unit cohesion is actually jeopardized by having DADT. Most military members are offended by the idea that they are unable to serve with known gay or lesbian service members.

Traditional marriage will always be preserved regardless of marriage equality.

Posted by: nolamen | December 30, 2010 2:49 PM | Report abuse

nolamen, I think the case against repeal of DADT during wartime was argued effectively by the Marine commandant. A small unit operating under fire in the field must have total trust in each other. Any distractions or complicating factors can be fatal. I hope in dismantling DADT that combat units are treated very cautiously, so that no lives are lost unnecessarily.

As for marriage, I'm libertarian in that I think the state should generally leave people alone. Gays are certainly free to enter into whatever personal relationships they choose. I have difficulty, though, seeing the benefit in labeling same-sex relationships as "marriage" and then applying all the legal structure of divorce courts, special tax treatment, etc. If a state wants to change its laws to create gay marriage, I have no objection, but it is illegitimate for judges to suddenly discover new rights in this sphere. The definition of monogamous marriage for all of history should count for something.

Posted by: eoniii | December 30, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse


I very much appreciate that people have concerns about the unknown. I always wonder what a mother or father’s response would be if it were their child being fired from the military.

In the military, there will not be a wave of people coming out or widespread disruptions. All military members will now be expected to follow the same rules of conduct.

Our military leaders including the Marine commandant Gen. James Amos agree that implementing the repeal of DADT is achievable in a respectful manner with proper leadership.

Posted by: nolamen | December 30, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

nolamen, I agree that now that the politicians have changed the law, the important thing is that the change be accomplished smoothly and respectfully. I am confident the military will do this. In the long run, it probably won't be much of a problem. In the short run, it could be a dangerous distraction in Afghanistan.

Incidentally, I read somewhere that a large majority of the service personnel discharged (honorably) under DADT came forward voluntarily to out themselves, presumably because they wanted out of their military commitment. I wonder if some gays will now intentionally get caught engaging in homosexual acts in order to be discharged early. I'm all for equal rights and responsibilities, but we must remember that the only reason we have a military is to win or prevent wars.

Posted by: eoniii | December 30, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

I guess Im from the young generation (Im 26) so here is my take. We younger people are not stupid, we generally know what is happening in politics. I can't speak for all young people, however most young people I know believe that the politicans are out of touch with the population. In the UK about ten years ago the social consertives were so homophobic that the general heterosexual public turned there back on the consertives, and as a result left wing parties were in power for a very long time. I believe that the Republicans better be very careful because the public will turn there back on them due to their homophobic stance. Think it can't happen, think again.

Posted by: Jason183645 | December 30, 2010 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Here's link to a NRO item reporting on a Pentagon study showing that of the 14,000 service personnel discharged under DADT, 85% self-reported in order to be discharged. About a quarter of the discharges occurred in the first few months of service, and there is a suspicion that many self-reporters are heterosexuals who just wanted out.

Many gays served in the military without incident. That's why I don't think this change will be that big a deal except for the fact that we're currently at war and the ground troops don't need any additional challenges or distractions.

Posted by: eoniii | December 30, 2010 6:20 PM | Report abuse

@ eoniii, thanks for posting the link to the anti-gay National Review. Next we'll ask the Klan to give their report on African Americans.

Posted by: bobbarnes | December 30, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Other priorities are being missed while social conservatives focus on issues that don't really change much. Gay people have always served. The only difference is that they will not be fired for just being gay.

In the spirit of the original post, all other republican priorities are at risk by focusing on discriminating against gay Americans, which does not directly affect most people--just gay people.

Posted by: nolamen | December 30, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

This gay marriage issue is so easily solved...just get government out of the equation. The "Government Free Marriage" movement searches to do exactly that, get government out and bring in liberty, to which conservatives. liberals, gays and straights can all agree on. It is not the proper role of government to define relationships or marriage. Government free marriage now!

Posted by: chriscesareo77 | December 30, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Why are these "Religous" groups not boycotting the event over CPAC allowing Anti-Semtic & RACIST co-sponsors (Youth for Western Civilization & YAF) at CPAC? These people boycott when a gay group sponors the event but are silent while racist groups sponsor it for years.

1) The former leader of University of Michigan YAF, Kyle Bristow recently self-published a novel, White Apocalypse, whose plot revolves around a series of violent revenge fantasies against Jewish professors.

2) Youth for Western Civilization recently hosted white racist, Richard Spencer, who started the blog “Alternative Right. The website is run by a white nationalist, for white nationalists.

‘Right-Wing Youth’ Group Debuts At CPAC

Posted by: linda87 | December 30, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse


"I wonder if some gays will now intentionally get caught engaging in homosexual acts in order to be discharged early."

Only if they're Republican Senators, or fundamentalist preachers, so what is it now, you tap the foot of the guy in the stall next to you? Does it matter how many times?

Posted by: 54465446 | December 30, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

There could be all kinds of legal and institutional means by which gays might stabilize their relationships (and it's curious that the American population, supposedly so far ahead of the reactionary Republicans, consistently vote down gay marriage; and even Obama had to pretend to be against it in 08--must be because of FOX News); while the question of the military probably could have been narrowed down to combat troops, a small proportion of those serving. Solving these human problems and adjusting institutions to meet new perceptions isn't the problem. The problem is these problems are always vehicles for Leftist ambitions to control more behavior and speech. Why does the Left want to declare gay marriage a "right" (as opposed to just working to get the needed 50% support to legalize it)? Because if it's a constitutional "right," all kinds of things become possible: Catholic adoption agencies can be scrutinized, sued and put out of business; places of worship refusing to sacralize gay marriage can be sued for discrimination; places of work and education that are insufficiently aggressive in policing "anti-gay" speech can be sued for discrimination, etc., etc.--the Left has entire think tanks devoted to coming up with new ways of demonizing and criminalizing what was taken for granted yesterday and making themselves arbiters of the socially acceptable. It's wrong to exclude gay conservatives because they likely provide a large part of the solution here, the solution being aligning gays with libertarianism rather than leftism, but it would also be a big mistake to think this is just about irrational resistance to benign and inevitable social progress.

Posted by: adam62 | December 30, 2010 11:44 PM | Report abuse

quote: "and why are certain arguments not resonating with younger voters?"

Because so many gay are out of the closet even in Jr HS/HS that non-gays are actually getting to individually know lots of gays,and they are getting along, " end quotee

Its always this way. the kids are so smart. They realize injustice when they see it. And the worst social injustice in AmeriKKKA today is that toward gays. Pure evil, including a 9'11 of 3000 gay kids driven to suicide every year.

And the white kids are almost totally comfortable with their black friends, and note the large number of inter-racial marriages in America.

The beauty of the scene is that the kids are evolving into non- believers, eg 60% of catholic youth support gay MARRIAGE.

As the old stuck in the mud crones die off or end up babbling in nursing homes, the country will change.

The big issue is of course the multiheaded problem of breaking the closet. Which btw is similar to hitlers ghettoizing the Jews.

And its not just breaking the closet re the gay folks, its breaking the closet of the good adults who fundamentally support gays, but are somehow still intimidated into keeping their mouth shut about social injustice.

And if you look at the many churches that are changing, eg Episcopal, Evan Lutheran, Presbyterian USA, UCC, MCC,Jewish reform and some conservative, we're well on our way to changing America. Also the conversation is happening in the American Baptists, the United Methodists, Disciples of Christ etc.

20 years from now most Americans will look back on this era, and call it our second great win for civil rights for all.

Posted by: SJames6621 | December 31, 2010 12:40 AM | Report abuse

Well said, Jennifer.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 1, 2011 9:41 PM | Report abuse

It was Republican Senator Barry Goldwater who warned that bringing the religious right into the party would be a disaster. His concerns were based on a very simple realization: The religious fundamentalists elevate everything to the level "God wants it" and leave themselves no room to compromise. Goldwater rightly stated that compromise was the essence of governing. The "take no prisoners" approach of McConnell, and the rigid dogma of the Tea Party will doom the Republican Party if they don't learn this lesson. And they will... or they will be gone.

Posted by: Jimcracky | January 4, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

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