Amongst the anti-government and anti-Obama rhetoric, naked self-promotion, wild-eyed ranting, and tired (and unfunny, and hypocritical) teleprompter jokes, there were two events at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (or CPAC) that inspired genuine, if cautious, hope. The first occurred a few months prior to the conference, when organizers accepted as a co-sponsor GOProud, a group representing gay conservatives and Republicans. CPAC has traditionally owed most of its mainstream attention to the hateful things uttered onstage by its more radical speakers (like Ann Coulter in 2007, for instance, or Glenn Beck last night), so allowing GOProud to put itself out front as a co-sponsor of the event is a very positive sign for folks like me who think the Republican party should look more like David Frum than David Duke.
Not everyone at CPAC thought so, naturally, which brings me to Reason for Hope #2. One of the speakers at CPAC Friday was Ryan Sorba, representing the California chapter of Young Americans for Freedom. Sorba took a portion of his allotted time to deride the organizers of CPAC for including GOProud, at which point he was booed off the stage.
It wasn’t the first time Sorba’s ideas have been so received. Two years ago he was booed off a stage at Smith College, where he’d been invited to speak on his book The Born Gay Hoax, a screed against “pro-sodomy activists.”
The fun for Sorba at CPAC didn’t stop with being driven from the stage. A short time later he met Alex Knepper, a contributor to David Frum’s website, FrumForum. Alex happens to be a gay conservative himself, and couldn’t help confronting Sorba when they happened to run into each other in the hallway. He transcribed their encounter, to the best of his recollection, here.
And, to save you a click, I’ve quoted a portion of it below.
“So, you’re the infamous Ryan Sorba,” I said.
“You’ve made quite a name for yourself.”
“Haha, yeah. Where are you from?”
“I go to college around here, American University.”
“What are you studying?”
“I was double-majoring in Political Science with a political theory focus and International Relations with an Islamic Studies focus, but I think I’m going to drop the latter. I can’t take the relativistic preaching, the whitewashing of the burqa, Sayyid Qutb, the entire religion.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. So what did you think of my little tirade, then?”
“Oh, I thought it was quite evil, actually. I’m gay.”
“You mean you think you’re gay.”
“No, I’m gay. Do you think it’s a choice?”
“I think it’s the result of a complex process of social and environmental factors, but that it’s reversible.”
“So, like, why is it that over one hundred animals have been observed engaging in homosexual sex in nature?”
“Well, only 0.2% of animals are known to do that — ”
” — I mean, mammals, obviously, not ants, birds — ”
” — you know, animals masturbate, your dog humps your leg. Does your dog talk with a lisp?”
“Do I talk with a lisp?!” I yelled.
It only gets better from there, ending with Sorba threatening to fight Alex if only his (Sorba’s, obviously) girlfriend wasn’t present. Score one for the good guys.
As I never tire of saying, I’m not a Republican, and for many, many reasons I wouldn’t want to be. But having people like Alex Knepper, rather than Ryan Sorba, driving the Republican party would be better for all of us. The people at CPAC who invited GOProud to participate, and who booed Sorba off the stage, should be proud of themselves. I don’t generally advocate booing people off stages. I say let the bigots talk and they’ll do most of our work for us. But a speaker getting the hook for speaking out against gays in a roomful of conservatives is definitely a good sign.
Incidentally, Alex was the writer who attended Senator Ben Cardin’s town hall meeting in Hagerstown this past August. You can read another short piece he wrote about his meeting with Ryan Sorba right here.
Should your travels through life happen to lead you to cross paths with Ryan Sorba one day, do me a favor: put two of your fingers an inch from his face and tell him you’d fight if only your chick wasn’t here. And if you happen to run across Alex Knepper, offer to shake his hand and tell him to keep up the good fight, not only for the rights of people like him, but for the soul of his party.