Saturday, April 04, 2015

Fights Over "Religious Freedom" And Gay Rights Are Costing Republicans

Opponents of an Arkansas religious objection measure chant outside the Arkansas state Capitol -
Danny Johnston AP
I have pondered before why the Republican Party as a whole continues to pander to a shrinking aging white, racist, religious extremist base when anti-gay, anti-Hispanic, and anti-women policies are alienating the emerging majority of Americans.  Then I remember something: the party base has been taken over by people out of touch with objective reality who believe that their view of the world is the only one - even if history and objective facts prove otherwise.  When people unquestioningly base their lives and world view on a selective reading of myths and fairy tales written largely by Bronze Age herders - i.e., the Jewish Old Testament - that even most Jews no longer believe in, political insanity is easier to understand.  The latest battles over "religious freedom" s\laws that are thinly veiled licenses to discriminate, and not just against gays, under score just how sick the GOP has become.   A piece at West Virginia PBS looks ate how the GOP is slowly committing suicide (even West Virginia defeated a "religious freedom act).  Here are higlights:
Following a firestorm of criticism, Republican governors in Indiana and Arkansas signed revised versions of their states' Religious Freedom Restoration bills Thursday night. In Indiana the language was adjusted, and in Arkansas it was significantly scaled back to more closely align with the federal law.

National Republicans, especially the ones running for president, have to hope it's enough to get them out of the hole they dug themselves on religious freedom and gay rights. It's worth taking a look at what the whole brouhaha has cost the GOP.

[H]ere are four questions about what this issue means for the GOP: 

1) Why didn't Republicans anticipate this firestormIt's possible that Republicans' big electoral victories in November blinded them to just how controversial this would be. Gov. Asa Hutchison, R-Ark., and Gov. Mike Pence, R-Ind., seemed genuinely taken aback by the demand for boycotts and the backlash from big corporations like Eli Lilly, WalMart and Apple, as well as the NCAA.

It's as if Republicans — particularly in the deep-red states of Arkansas and Indiana — operate according to a different political calculus, insulated from the divide between their own conservative constituents and changing national opinion. . . . . moving forward with an agenda that satisfies their base of social conservatives but is seen as intolerant and divisive by the business community and a growing majority of voters in the country. This week, those two opposing dynamics reignited the culture war, with Republican politicians as the first casualties.

2) Is this about more than just religious freedom?  Yes! It's about a much bigger, much more fundamental problem for the GOP. A new Pew poll showed that 61 percent of young Republicans favor gay marriage. Hutchinson said his own son signed a petition asking him to veto the bill that he instead sent back to the Legislature for revision.

The Republicans can't appeal to young voters if they're on the wrong side of gay marriage, because gay rights is a symbol of tolerance for so many young voters — not to mention suburban women. The same is true for one of the fastest-growing parts of the electorate — Hispanics. How do Republicans show Hispanics that they are welcoming and inclusive if they oppose a path to legalization for hard-working immigrants here illegally?

The views of the GOP's white, older, conservative primary electorate are farther away from the center of American public opinion than the Democratic base is right now.

3) [H]ow will Republican candidates resolve this larger tension?   Good question! The debates during the primaries will, presumably, reveal the answer. . . . . Of all the GOP presidential hopefuls, Jeb Bush has given this the most thought. He seems determined not to fall into the trap that Mitt Romney did in 2012. . . . Bush has said his strategy is to run as if he's willing "to lose the primary in order to win the general."

4) How's that working out for Jeb Bush so far?    Not so great. All the leading Republican presidential hopefuls, including Bush, came out in favor of the Arkansas and Indiana bills. By Wednesday, though, Bush was backtracking, insisting that religious freedom is a core value but that we also shouldn't discriminate based on sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has no doubts about what side he's on. In Iowa on Wednesday, Cruz blasted the "big business" wing of the GOP, saying they are "running shamelessly to endorse the radical, gay marriage agenda over religious liberty. "
Personally, I don't see how the GOP adjusts to the changing American majority unless and until it admits that evangelical Christians are radioactive with the rest of America and efforts are made to begin purging them from local county and city committees.  How this will be done is hard to say given how entrenched the religious extremists have become.  Moreover, moderates like myself and my entire extended family have fled the GOP and what former moderates that are left seem to be drinking the "Kool-Aid" by the gallon full.  The GOP establishment created a Frankenstein monster and now it doesn't know how to kill it.  Anyone with common sense should have been able to see where allowing Christofascists to gain power would lead.

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