CPAC Diary: Showdown on Gay Street

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 14 2013 7:08 PM

CPAC Diary: Showdown on Gay Street

The drawn-out drama of CPAC and GOProud has been told too many times to be worth retelling here. It came to a head, finally -- peacefully! -- in a pair of end-of-day panels, held on separate floors. At 5, a smallish group of clued-in people found a panel titled "Stop THIS: Threats, Harassment, Intimidation, Slander, and Bullying from the Obama Administration." The title fit in with the theme of a new book by panelist Ben Shapiro ('s editor). But the marquee guests were ACU board member Cleta Mitchell, who's credited with barring GOProud, and Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage.

"The time when you can stay at home and not have conflict is gone," said Brown. Conservatives were losing a battle of messaging to the left, because conservatives were concerned with "truth," and wouldn't slander their enemies. Mitchell radiated contempt, condemning the left for exposing tax information (and thus donor lists) for conservative groups like NOM. A college student rose to report that his school had kicked out Chick-fil-A -- there was a synchronized glumness from the expert panel.

I left the panel to pick up gear and rendezvous with the subject I was covering today. That took me past a winding line of hundreds, queued to see Paul Ryan, and delayed me with a couple of hallway conversations. I was delayed for the start of "A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition, Bringing Tolerance Out of the Closet." It looked like this:

photo (1)

There was an unexpected symmetry of themes. The NOM et al panel had described a world in which intolerant liberals were forcing conservatives to defy their faiths. This panel, put on by the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, condemned intolerance from CPAC organizers, who were giving voters away by dismissing gay voters. They were, according to GOP strategist Liz Mair (wearing a Freedom to Marry shirt), the one group that shifted a little from Bush 2004 to McCain 2008, then had been won back by Barack Obama.

"The conservative moment is going through one of those purity panics right now," said National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg. He'd been called a squish -- "the author of Liberal Fascism, 10 years at National Review, and I'm a squish."

The room filled further, with most attendees too capitivated (or stuck) to patronize an open bar. This was their one bite at the apple, the one real discussion of marriage rights. "How do we let prisoners in jail get married," said conservative activist Margaret Hoover, "because they have a fundamental right, but law-abiding gay Americans who want to commit their lives to each other not get married?"

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics



Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

Even by Russian Standards, Moscow’s Anti-War March Was Surprisingly Grim

I Wrote a Novel Envisioning a Nigerian Space Program. Then I Learned Nigeria Actually Has One.

The Best Thing About the People’s Climate March in NYC

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 22 2014 12:30 PM Turkey Just Got Forty-Six Hostages Back From ISIS. How Did That Happen?
Sept. 22 2014 12:44 PM The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy
The Shortcut
Sept. 22 2014 12:31 PM Down With Loose Laces A simple trick to tighten your running shoes for good.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM Escaping the Extreme Christian Fundamentalism of "Quiverfull"
  Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 12:22 PM The Age of the Streaming TV Auteur
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.