GOProud co-founders Christopher Barron and Jimmy LaSalvia made a big splash at CPAC last weekend, including with a heavily promoted party, but the early returns were not promising. Before the weekend was over, Barron had issued a public apology, GOProud was all but disinvited from the 2012 conference, and right-wing lesbian radio host Tammy Bruce had quit its board.
The group's mission statement touts its commitment to "limited government, individual liberty, free markets and a confident foreign policy." That's a pretty mainstream conservative statement, though limited government here includes support for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, whose title omits the fact that the bill would penalize private insurers who cover abortion and employers who offer insurance plans that include it.
Unlike Log Cabin Republicans, which works with liberal gay groups on legislation, GOProud regularly attacks those groups. Its take-no-prisoners style is reflected in its advisory board, which includes Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, Fox News contributor Margaret Hoover, and right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart, who is perhaps most famous for his distortion that got Shirley Sherrod fired from the Department of Agriculture.
Barron has a penchant for brash comments, and did not disappoint with his reaction to a boycott of CPAC by groups such as Family Research Council, National Organization for Marriage and the Heritage Foundation. I loved his description of the boycotters as fleeing to "the Island of Political Misfit Toys." Even gay blogger Joe Jervis, a frequent critic of GOProud, told Metro Weekly's Chris Geidner that he approved of GOProud's "shit-stirring" presence at CPAC.
GOProud invited egotistical blowhard Donald Trump to CPAC and drooled all over him as he boasted of being pro-life and anti-gun-control, though its straw-poll write-in campaign for him fizzled. But Barron had to apologize for telling Geidner that Republican power attorney Cleta Mitchell is "a nasty bigot." I can vouch for the accuracy of the comment, having witnessed Mitchell's vicious and dishonest testimony against D.C.'s marriage-equality law. Cries of "bigot," however, are something conservatives do not want to hear in response to attacks on gay families. The GayPatriot blog, usually a GOProud ally, said Barron's comment "crossed a line."
The new chair of the American Conservative Union, Al Cardenas, told FrumForum on Feb. 10, "It's going to be difficult to continue the relationship [with GOProud] because of their behavior and attitude," and stated he would keep Mitchell as ACU Foundation chairman. Faced with the choice of dropping the Misfit Toys or the homocons, ACU appears ready to banish the homocons. Jervis commented, "If you call a bigot a bigot, you don't get to play with bigots. Seems fair enough."
GOProud's Homocon 2010 keynoter Ann Coulter spoke at CPAC on Feb. 12 and answered a question about GOProud by claiming, "I talked them into dropping the gay-marriage plank." Then she accused liberals of using gays to destroy the family. Speaking of being used, it says nothing good about GOProud that they let themselves be used by this say-anything opportunist who makes gratuitous smears into performance art.
Barron is right that we cannot win over conservative voters by slapping a Republican label on the same old liberal talking points. We have to reach conservatives where they are, which requires that we respect them, listen and learn to speak their language — a task complicated, incidentally, by the current dominance of the GOP by radicals whose proposals bear little resemblance to traditional conservatism.
In any case, it is unclear how GOProud advances the interests of gay people if its main role is making snarky comments, throwing parties and helping anti-abortionists. Maybe its real purpose is to give us a fresh appreciation for the folks at Log Cabin.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at .