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January 06, 2011

WashTimes' Misleading Headline: "Values Groups Out at CPAC"

This is apparently going to be a fixture in second-tier media and online media until CPAC in February, but -- as I noted here -- the family feud does not pit CPAC against social conservatives.

The Washington Times today has an article headlined: "Gay group in, values groups out at CPAC: Social conservatives to skip gathering."

That is simply not the case. Many social conservative groups are still attending as "participating organizations" (the same status as GOProud). They include pro-life groups, Christian ministries groups, and family values groups. Of course, these will be participating in CPAC with many participating organizations that aren't socially conservative, including tax reform advocates, limited government groups, economic conservatives, an English-advocacy group and a group seeking to legalize online gambling.

The only folks who benefit from portraying the boycott as a generalized abandonment of CPAC by social conservatives are Democrats (who love a good conservative crack-up) and the few groups who have chosen to absent themselves. They are putatively led by Family Research Council, but as I have repeatedly noted, FRC wasn't going to participate this year (or last) anyway and so aren't really boycotting as a result of GOProud inclusion. FRC now operates a rival conference, the Values Voters Summit and therefore simply benefits by drawing attendance away from CPAC.

The Washington Times adds Heritage to the list of "values groups" boycotting, but that isn't related to GOProud either. When Heritage announced its decision last month, it didn't link its attendance to GOProud. Instead, Heritage said that it's a budget issue:

"With the rise of the Tea Party groups this year, there have been more and more meetings we've been going to, and we're trying to reach out to new conservatives," said James Weidman, a Heritage spokesman. "We have a limited budget for outreach and we've got more and more organizations out there that want our outreach."

"We've been a fixture at CPAC for years. I'm not sure we're going to reach any new people there," Weidman added.

The boycotting groups, which include the Center for Military Readiness, the American Family Association, the American Principles Project, the Liberty Counsel and the National Organization for Marriage, continually suggest that CPAC is trying to push them out of the movement.

Andy Blom, executive director of the American Principles Project, called the move to marginalize values voters self-defeating.

"The rather arrogant treatment of social conservatives by libertarians is troubling," said Mr. Blom. "Social conservatives are the foot soldiers of the movement. Marriage has never lost an election. Being pro-life does not lose elections. It wins elections. This is not only a serious principle mistake, it's a serious political mistake."

Blom doesn't seem to acknowledge the existence of economic conservatives, or admit that both social conservatives and economic conservatives are necessary for conservative candidates to continue to win elections. And once again he claims that CPAC is "marginalizing" social conservatives when, in fact, CPAC continues to welcome both social conservatives and economic conservatives. It was these groups' decision to marginalize themselves simply because they refuse to be put on the same list with a gay group.

Another socially conservative group that isn't part of the boycott seems to recognize that self-marginalization will only reduce social conservative influence:

Groups such as Citizen Link, the political-action arm of Focus on the Family, plan to attend this year's CPAC, but say the conference is on a short leash.

"It's obvious the influence of social conservatives has been missing and there needs to be more of it," said Tom Minnery, senior vice president of Citizen Link. "If the ACU can't manage this problem that they've brought upon themselves, we'll have to make another decision."

The point is that CPAC is the paramount annual gathering of conservatives; if these groups want their influence to be felt, they have to show up. CPAC continues to welcome them and, of course, thousands of social conservatives will still show up for the conference despite the boycott.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 12:05 PM

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