Sunday, March 29, 2015

No More Nuance: The Right Is In Charge

Just when it seems that the Republican Party can get some things done, as evidenced by last week's budget and the bipartisan agreement on Medicare and the Children's Health Insurance Program, along come reminders that the uncompromising, hawkish right wing is still in charge of the agenda.

Witness the new Indiana law that, under the guise of religious liberty, will allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against customers guests because they are gay. The reaction was immediate:
Supporters say discrimination concerns are overblown and that the Indiana measure merely seeks to prevent the government from compelling people to provide such things as catering or photography for same-sex weddings or other activities they find objectionable on religious grounds.
Love the "merely." Remember when states merely wanted to prevent blacks and whites from marrying, going to school together and adopting children, all under the rubric of religious freedom? Remember when country clubs, public pools and fraternal organizations could merely reject Jews for membership? I do.

Religious freedom and democracy, like freedom and equality, don't always mix well, and any clear reading of the intent of the Founders will show that their bias was to have a functioning democracy with religious protections built into the laws, and not a religious legal system with democracy mixed in for good measure. That we have overcome most of our de jure racial prejudice in the years since 1789 shows great progress. That many Americans continue to believe that there are people out there deserving of our discrimination and prejudice is disturbing and obnoxious. If you want to practice your religion as a private citizen, that is eminently your right. When that practice upsets the moral, ethical and legal boundaries of our representative democracy, then you are overstepping your rights as an American.

Fortunately, we do have many reasonable voices who are speaking against this law. Most notable for our present purposes is the NCAA. which will be holding the Final Four basketball championships in Indianapolis next weekend. There have already been calls to move it, which is unlikely, but other business groups are also concerned, as should the NFL and major corporate entities that are planning to hold national events in the state.

The message should be clear: No discrimination, no prejudice, no bias, no hate, no how.

But this is not the only recent story that shows the right wing to be uncompromising to its detriment.  In the wake of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit and speech to Congress, his divisive comments about Israeli Arabs and statements, since modified, that show him against a two-state solution, the Republican Party's has a new litmus test: Support Israel 100% or face the wrath of base primary voters and others in the party. Even former Secretary of State and widely respected diplomat James A. Baker, was attacked for presuming to say that Netanyahu's actions and words were detrimental to regional peace.

Republicans seem to have lost the last crumbs of nuance that existed in the party as recently as 2005. It's gotten to the point that you are either all in for Israel, with no complaints, or you must be pro-Iran. That is most ludicrous and extremely dangerous. Uncompromising attitudes lead to unnecessary actions, like, let's say, wars in Iraq and Vietnam. They leave no room for the United States to recognize that other countries and people, such as the Palestinians and Iranians do not always agree with their leadership or are all terrorists or that they have their national interests at heart. We don't need to agree with them, but we do need to respect their points of view. Backing any country 100% with no room for dissent is the height of intellectual irresponsibility.

The irony is thick and viscous: These same Republicans who say they support Israel's policies certainly do not support all of the Obama Administration's policies, not should they be expected to. I've been cognizant of national politics since Richard Nixon was president and I have never, and I almost never say never, supported a state or national administration without question. That would be dangerous and foolish. Yet the right wing is imposing this test on all Republicans.

If the Republicans want to govern, they will need to be much more flexible in their approach. This is why they lost winnable national races in 2010 and 2012, and why it took a favorable national map for them to win the Senate in 2014. They are setting themselves up for another fall in 2016 if they continue promoting discrimination and division.

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