makes the case that the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) should rethink its decision to exclude gay rights groups like GOProud. I encourage everyone to read this important piece. Foster is obviously trying his level best to increase tolerance among people on the right, and this is to be applauded. At the same time, it is a comically appalling essay. It is a wonderful example of how when Republicans attempt to sound respectful they're worse than ever.
He begins by praising GOProud's conservative credentials, which consist of not being all that, y'know, pushy on the equal rights thing:
They’re playing the long game of acclimating gays to conservatism and conservatism to gays, and a large piece of that, frankly, is just sitting around quietly and behaving themselves. This is why GOProud leads with its full-spectrum conservative bona fides and why its position on gay marriage (officially agnostic and federalist, but with implied underlying support) is intentionally circumspect and backgrounded.
"You can hardly tell!" he almost says. And honestly, you get the feeling he means it as a compliment.
Foster also digs into the political rationale. He thinks there might be a hidden opportunity for Republicans to pick up more support among gay people - maybe even a better chance than with the Latino community:
One reason to be hopeful about the latter is that, while it’s difficult to be secretly Latino, it’s fairly common to be secretly gay. (Living in New York City, I know both conservatives who are closeted gays and gays who are closeted conservatives — indeed, would anyone be surprised if Romney carried the closet vote?)
Hopeful. Closeted. Ugh. Aside from the actual argument, it's really the utter lack of sensitivity that shines here. "Their hidden, painfully compartmented life might be a real vote-getter for us!" he practically chortles. It's the language of the lawyer elbowing his way into the hospital room to announce that he's just horrified by what happened, but here's his business card. And it's a restatement of the idea that Republicans should seek the votes of gay people, but only those gay people who don't really mean it.
Foster makes some other points about how America itself is changing its attitudes toward homosexuality, and how younger conservatives will be turned off if the GOP continues along the Puritan path. He writes that excluding GOProud "gives the Left... a cudgel with which to beat the Right for its implied intolerance." And worse times are coming he warns, because "'Tolerance' has been more or less weaponized by cultural progressives..."
Well. Speaking as a cultural progressive myself, I say we figure out whatever he means by this tolerance weaponizing and do it double-time. Because in his conclusion, Foster himself makes clear something anyone over the age of six already knows about the Republican Party: They are determined to act decently when they have exhausted absolutely every other option.
But tolerance in its original, and best, meaning requires merely a respectful coexistence governed by a principle of charity, not a commandment to embrace or celebrate. CPAC could perfectly illustrate the difference by inviting GOProud back into the tent.
Foster lets us all know that the moderates in the GOP stand ready to offer exactly the minimal amount of respect toward those who are different than they are. Okay then. Everyone with any self-respect, gay and straight, ought to let them know that's not quite enough.