Over at Bawdy House Provisions, I wrote a piece on the controversy regarding the Indiana RFRA:

Ross Douthat has made repeated mentions that the right is “negotiating its surrender.” He makes a point similar to the one I am about to make, but he seems to view it in the context of “the left changed” while I see it as “the right refused to until it was far too late.”

The problem here is that they are coming from such a place of weakness that there isn’t much to negotiate. The have to play off latent sympathy from the other side, to which they have shown none. Actions have consequences. Rather than relating this to a war that is winding down, though, I think the more applicable comparison is to trying to negotiate a settlement after the verdict is in. You had your chance to get a much better settlement. You were unreasonably cocky, and these are the consequences.

The writing was on the wall a decade ago. Gay marriage was going to become legal. It was just a question of when. We’re slightly ahead of schedule by my predictions. But the right had plenty of time to “evolve” on the issue and make a swift and orderly accommodation of the fact that gays, too, would like to be married, and the perspective that there aren’t many logical reasons why they shouldn’t that don’t involve an open bias that was likely to become increasingly unsavory.

One area I meant to explore but didn’t is that this is where policy conflicts with ideology. Which is to say that the purpose of a political party is to win elections. And on this front, the GOP’s stance served them well throughout the last decade. Each side held up its end of the bargain, in a short-sighted way. The fight will have outlived its usefulness in relatively short order, I believe, and the GOP will determine that even mostly symbolic measures like this one are costing them more than they’re getting from them. They won’t toss the religious right overboard, but it won’t carry on like the abortion issue has. And those advocating restricted rights – and social ostracization – will be left with less than they would have if the party had taken a longer view. But it’s not a party’s job to protect the interest of its constituents (against their own inclinations, in this case). It’s their job to win elections. It’s headed towards being an issue with all of the usefulness of a burned out candle.


Category: Statehouse

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3 Responses to Meanwhile, Elsewhere…

  1. James Hanley says:

    Indiana seems on the verge of changing the bill to add anti-discrimination protection for gay and transgender folks; in Arkansas the governor refused to sign a similar bill; and here in Michigan Gov. Snyder says he’ll veto a similar bill that’s in the legislature unless it’s combined with similar protections.

    Setting aside whatever we might argue about whether there ought to be such religious rights, the firestorm over Indiana’s law is a strong indication that the religious right over-reached itself.

    One of the problems with voting as a means of choosing officials is that a vote is not a clear signal. When parties win big they have a tendency to think they got a mandate to do all the things they’ve dreamed of doing, but that’s generally not what the voters intended at all.

    • trumwill says:

      I view it slightly differently. Perhaps more optimistically (and perhaps unjustified optimism). I think this may signal the end (or at least a decline) in largely symbolic meat-throwing votes to the base.

      Having a foot in conservative circles and a foot outside of conservative circles, it’s interesting to read the complaints about the meekness of the GOP on the one side and the radicalness of it on the other. And yet, both are not entirely wrong. Republicans talk a big game and are big on symbolism, but have a lot of difficulty actively delivering much of anything that isn’t relatively easy (going back to Reagan).

      The end result is a lot of radical cage-rattling, and a lot of comparatively empty gestures. This is sort of indicative of that. A bill that doesn’t actually do much, but sort of lets on like it does. Except that it so completely exploded in their face, that I think lessons may actually be drawn (even if only tragically limited to gay rights).

      I call this “optimistic” because I think one of the biggest problems in politics right now is the gap between what Republican politicians can say that sounds good, and what they can reasonably accomplish in light of system restraints and genuine public opinion.

      • James Hanley says:

        The Indiana Bill would radically let a pizzeria refuse to do that which nobody has ever in its history asked it to do.

        You may be right.

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