The GOP’s surrender on social issues is in some ways old news. The party and its base are less religious than they were a generation ago and the GOP beyond some virtue signaling is mostly uninterested and unready to actually even defend religious freedom, let alone assert traditional values.
The collapse in South Dakota and Arkansas is just more blatant than usual with GOP governors defying legislatures to preemptively surrender.
Few GOP governors want to alienate corporate donors or face boycotts especially over issues that they don’t particularly understand or care about.
Before Trump, GOP governors were virtue signaling before unilaterally surrendering on immigration issues. And they were surrendering on religious freedom all along. What happened in South Dakota and Arkansas should be fairly familiar from the previous decade.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) on Wednesday vetoed a bill that caused a national stir over gay rights and religious freedom because it offered legal protection to business owners who choose to deny services based on religious beliefs.
“My agenda is to sign into law legislation that advances Arizona,” she said. “I call them like I see them despite the cheers or the boos from the crowd.”
Back in Indiana, Mike Pence, then governor, didn’t exactly cover himself in glory, when he signed and then wrecked a religious freedom bill.
Governor Asa Hutchinson, in Arkansas again, did the same thing, so his current behavior should have surprised no one.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday had been expected to sign his state’s version of legislation billed as a religious freedom measure, despite complaints that it could lead to discrimination, especially against gays and lesbians.
But all of that changed by Wednesday morning amid a fusillade of opposition that included Wal-Mart, the state’s biggest employer, and even the governor’s own son.
The governor, who said he would not sign the bill and asked lawmakers to change it, acted with an eye on the furor that has rocked Indiana, where the governor and state lawmakers have been under sharp attack from business leaders and civil rights groups that say the state’s law allows businesses and others to deny services to gays and lesbians. The Indiana law has prompted a travel boycott backed by governors of three states and complaints from venerated sports groups including college basketball and automobile racing.
“This is a bill that in ordinary times would not be controversial,” Hutchinson said in a televised news conference, announcing his decision to not sign the measure. “But these are not ordinary times.”
They never are.
The ‘Bake a cake’ meme helped put some backbone behind religious freedom issues, but not enough of it.
Most GOP governors don’t like social issues and hate offending major corporations. And so the unilateral surrenders arrive on schedule. These days there are also preemptive surrenders on issues that haven’t even been fully debated and where there’s no sense of a major national shift.
And yet the willingness to defend religious freedom and to push back against leftist social extremism remains a fundamental presidential litmus test. Politicians who collapse in the face of woke corporate and media pressure lack any real conviction and have nothing to offer the country.
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