WASHINGTON, March 15, 2013 — At CPAC’s Rainbow on the Right panel, conservatives Jonah Goldberg, Jimmy Lasalvia, Jennifer Rubin, Margaret Hoover and Liz Mayer argued against an intrusive Republican Party that rejects gay Americans as part of its coalition. One of the speakers declared that there is perception that conservatives are a “closed group.” The goal of the panel was to find ways to get conservatives to come out of the closet in support of a more open party. The event was standing room only.
Jimmy LaSalvia, the head of GoProud, said that conservatives don’t need to agree on every single issue, but we come with a mutual vision of government. Conservative policies benefit everyone, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. He argued that conservatives need to reach out to all people, including gays. He made it clear, “I do not believe that someone [who] opposes same-sex marriage is bigoted,” however, “everyone knows a gay person.” He made that the cornerstone of his argument for a more inclusive party.
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin said, “we can not be at war with America on the issues of fairness and equality. “
Unlike LaSalvia, who made the compassionate case for conservatives to engage in more voter outreach, Rubin’s arguments were harsher edged and tended to hyperbole. She said, “No state that put in gay marriage ever reversed it.” That is incorrect: Both Maine and California permitted same-sex marriage, then voted to overturn it in 2008.
She attempted to demonstrate correspondences between the issue of gay marriage and the issue of amnesty. She claimed that Hispanic and gay voters have shared values and shared beliefs on government that we can tap into if we just moved beyond the two issues of gay marriage and amnesty. Polls, however, tend to show that Hispanic Americans are more liberal than the average American.
Jonah Goldberg compared CPAC’s invitation of Donald Trump with its failure to invite gay Republican groups.
Liz Mayer, a Republican strategist, identified gays as one of the only minority groups among which Republicans increased their share of the vote from 2004 to 2012. She noted that she is libertarian and wishes government could just get out of marriage entirely but it is not a realistic position to have. “Unless there is a radical overhaul of immigration, tax and entitlements then you can’t have the libertarian version of marriage,” she said.
Margaret Hoover redeployed her usual talking points, claiming that millennials are moving away from the GOP. She asserted the strained rational that her libertarianism makes her a conservative. Her argument was unconvincing. In 2012, Romney won a majority of the under 30 white vote. The only problem is there are less of them as a percentage of the population than in the generation before. Hoover was unable or unwilling to provide the statistical details that could have made her argument.
I asked Jimmy LaSalvia, “many on the left such as Dan Savage hate you, and they justify it with the GOP’s rejection of gay marriage; do you believe that if the party switched this one position, that the left would find another reason to hate you?”
LaSalvia responded, “I can tell you that we get lots of hate mail, 90 percent of it is from angry gay lefties. Some of it is about our position on Obamcare; sometimes it comes from anti-gun people. And yes some of them would never change their position, but I do think we could win a few over.”
Rubin followed up, “you know someone from the enemies they make. You did not become a conservative because it is easy. “
While the debate was good, it was tremendously over simplified in its assertion that accepting gay marriage would win as many voters as it would lose. And while some of the debaters, like LaSalvia and Meyer, made passionate remarks about outreach, many others simply produced empty rhetoric.
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