When it was announced that former Florida Republican Party Chairman Al Cardenas would head the American Conservative Union -- the group which organizes the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) -- I was skeptical.
After all, Cardenas is a lobbyist who endorsed Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio
for U.S. Senate in Florida. And he
was elected to head a conservative organization?
But just as Speaker John Boehner has, thus far, exceeded my expectations, Cardenas has, thus far, also impressed me with his calm leadership style.
As you may know, CPAC has been plagued recently by a controversy surrounding GOProud -- a gay conservative organization whose high-profile involvement with CPAC led some prominent socially conservative groups
to boycott the conference
The controversy essentially pitted those who believe CPAC should provide a "big tent"
versus those who value the preservation of the "three-legged stool
" of the conservative coalition (encompassing social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and national security conservatives).
The controversy threatened to mar the annual event, with the rhetoric becoming heated
at times. But Cardenas' style and eloquence may help change that. He was recently on C-SPAN (around the eight-minute mark
) discussing the GOProud controversy.
Here's what he had to say
We're going to make sure that organizations that adhere to our beliefs get invited. So that includes GOProud or anybody else, so we're going to go through a vetting process to see what they stand for.
If you are a group, this has got nothing to do with orientation -- if you're a group of straight couples that advocate for gay marriage, then that's not within the scope of what we believe that the three legs of the stool of the movement are. So it's got nothing to do with the orientation. It has got to do with the principles that you advocate. There are of gays in America that don't advocate the gays-in-the-military issue or gay marriage, and so they'll fit within the tent of what we stand for. . . So we'll do our best to be inclusive while at the same time adhering to the principles that Ronald Reagan dreamed about and we've been following.
Leadership matters, and since being elected to head the ACU just over a week ago, Cardenas has proven a calming force.
What is more, he has eloquently presented a nuanced argument for why CPAC should remain open to anyone
who wants to attend -- while simultaneously remaining true to conservative policy positions.
In short, Cardenas is saying: We don't care who you are; we care what you believe in.
Maybe, just maybe, this issue will finally be resolved by the time CPAC rolls around next year.