Jonah Goldberg’s Nonsense on CPAC
Glenn Reynolds excerpts a portion of a Jonah Goldberg item on CPAC and encourages readers to take in the rest. One most certainly should. If I had to describe it I’d say it’s feel good pop culture nonsense for conservatives intent on losing principled arguments.
The sociology of CPAC is hard to describe to people outside the conservative movement. In a sense, it’s the Comic-Con of conservatism, overflowing with stalls and barkers like a Middle Eastern bazaar. It also serves as a de facto political convention for the ideological base of the Republican Party.
Take these bits below from Goldberg for example.
During the crucial final days of the presidential election, Christie didn’t merely embrace President Obama, he all but endorsed him … Christie denounced Republicans who wanted to move (pork laden) legislation a few micrometers closer to kosher … Oh, and he parroted the gun-control line and flip-flopped on accepting a federal bribe to accept Obamacare funding to expand Medicaid. Now, in fairness, Christie has his reasons for doing all of these things. Some are pretty defensible, others far less so.
How does it advance conservatism, not the GOP, if CPAC, which Goldberg calls “the first bottleneck in the Republican presidential pipeline,” to help advance some next John McCain or Mitt Romney wannabe? The fact is, it doesn’t. All it advances is Goldberg’s ability to feel good about himself, or perhaps less embarrassed to call himself a conservative. He could always stop and go for Republican, you know. Heck, it may even be more honest for all I know.
And there’s more silliness I’d describe as shallow thinking from Goldberg. Does any serious conservative believe conservatives have effectively conveyed to the GOP that we’re holding the line on anything? Former Bush adviser Ken Mehlman and others are leading a GOP effort in support of gay marriage. I don’t object to that and wouldn’t denounce a Republican for that. I think advocates for the issue will likely win out one day, even if I still have genuine concerns on how it impacts the concept of the family. But what is in it for CPAC and many conservatives to take up that issue? Nothing, frankly.
It’s quite possibly one best avoided, which does not necessarily mean it’s one to be opposed. In some cases, what a movement doesn’t engage on can be more effective and healthier for it, than what it does choose to actively engage on. What good would it do CPAC to antagonize many long-term supporters on behalf of some vague notion of new supporters that will likely never materialize. Sorry, but those are issues for serious people to consider, not people more interested in some passing pop culture icon-ism.
Some will no doubt see this as CPAC bravely holding the line. But it reads to many in the public as a knee-jerk and insecure retreat at precisely the moment conservatives should be sending the opposite message. Maybe the near third of young Republicans who support gay marriage are wrong, but CPAC won’t convince them — never mind other young voters — of that by fueling the storyline that conservatives are scared of gays.
Such a move would likely cost CPAC and the GOP’s more conservative wing social conservative support. Now I’ll admit to not always being a fan of strident social cons, believe me. But will embracing GOProud, or Gay marriage as an issue somehow balance out much needed support being put at risk? No, it won’t and it’s most likely an issue that CPAC should just avoid altogether. Since when did CPAC become the civil right’s movement, tasked with its charge and not the advancement of conservative principles as defined by a majority of grassroots conservatives – not editorialists at NRO, of all places, for heaven’s sake?
As I said last night on Twitter, not embracing an issue does not automatically equal opposition. Like it, or not, not every issue is a good one for any movement and I doubt there will be anyone at the door at CPAC asking attendees about their sexual preferences. There is no ban on Gays at CPAC, so far as I can tell. That would be something worth fighting against.
Furthermore, the Gay lobby isn’t going to suddenly embrace conservatives as heroic, or their champions. And they’ll continue to undermine seriously conservative Republicans at the national level just as they do now. Oh, but Jonah Goldberg will get to feel enlightened and some will feel good about themselves as conservatives, so CPAC should embrace it and risk losing more support than it could ever hope to gain from it.
If anything, the feel good pop culture position on serious issues tends to weaken a principled conservatism, not strengthen it – no matter how many books it sells, or how much easier it makes it for someone to build a career because they’d lose too much cache if they simply called themselves a Republican, instead of a conservative.