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Contentions

Boycotts vs. Public Debate

As reported in various outlets, several groups — including the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America — are boycotting the 2011 Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference because CPAC is allowing GOProud, a conservative gay-rights organization, to be a sponsoring organization (one of more than 70). This strikes me as a bad idea on several levels.

As Ed Morrissey points out, CPAC brings together a variety of conservative groups holding different beliefs. They include libertarians, social conservatives, internationalists, isolationists, atheists, religious believers, and more. The point isn’t to determine a platform that conservatives must embrace; it is to engage in a debate about the merits of various issues. That should include those who embrace repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and same-sex marriage. Like it or not, those issues are part of the public conversation; they should therefore be engaged in a serious, thoughtful manner. Boycotting conferences to express moral disapproval won’t accomplish anything useful.

Beyond 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.

Part of this, I suppose, is subjective. There are certainly some hate groups that would be inappropriate to have as a sponsoring organization. But a gay-rights advocacy group like GOProud certainly doesn’t qualify. It shouldn’t be denied the chance to make its case. Groups that believe they have a strong moral and intellectual case should welcome a public debate on the merits. To do so is consistent with the American tradition. To fail to do so is contrary to it.



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