Saturday, April 04, 2015

Race for the White House 2016 Volume 14

I have little doubt that America remains a center-right country, including on social issues. However, even conservatives like myself would have to admit that we are losing any supposed "battle" over the issue of same-sex marriage. While the country is still pretty divided on that issue, the tide has turned, certainly from where it was a decade ago and it is hard to see how that will not continue further. Many others have genuinely had a change of heart on the issue, while others, mostly Democrat politicians, seem to have abruptly changed positions with the political wind. As a matter of public policy, I believe it is best that the definition of marriage remain as a union between one man and one woman. However, I have always supported civil unions and measures that could make life easier for gays and lesbians in committed relationships. I just still believe that to the extent that the government recognizes marriage, it out to continue to have an elevated status for the nucleus of a family structure that typically (thought not always) is designed to bring children into the world and is best equipped to raise future generations.

Discrimination is a bad thing. It was an immoral, evil thing when done in the segregated south during our nation's past, through government mandated Jim Crow regulations. To our credit as a nation, we repealed those laws and moved towards progress. While discrimination has existed as it relates to other groups throughout our nation's history, including against people who share my Jewish religion, no other group in American history has faced quite the challenges that African-Americans, the descendants of slaves, have faced. Therefore, it is way off base and in fact insulting when advocates of greater rights for gays make comparisons to the Civil Rights Movement.

All of this has been very much in the news for the past week plus, as a new law, passed by Republicans in Indiana (along with a similar measure in Arkansas) have generated tremendous amounts of controversy and media coverage. This "culture war" issue has taken on angles that few people may have anticipated a short while ago, and the content and tenor of the debate certainly relate to the burgeoning race for President. As someone who does not believe in discrimination, but who also believes that people of faith should have the right to live by their values and conscience (even when misguided or wrong), the entire debate has felt pretty unfortunate. So much vitriol and misinformation has been thrown at the national discourse by those on the left, and while they have probably succeeded in what they have wanted to do, it is primarily a message of manufactured outrage, coupled with a great deal of hypocrisy.

Nothing in the Indiana law, which has since been revised after the outcry, would have done anything to significantly damage gays and lesbians. They were not even the intent of this law, despite what many have claimed. The law was designed after a similar federal statute, signed into in the 1990s, by Democrat Bill Clinton, after being approved in the U.S. Senate by a 97-3 margin and it is similar to Religious Freedom laws that many other states have, including one in Illinois that State Senator Barack Obama voted for, have. Without these protections, the rights of people who own or run businesses stand a chance of being significantly more damaged than any perceived discrimination.

Let's state that before this law was passed, Indiana had no law prohibiting discrimination against gays. One can certainly argue that one was needed, but this law would have done nothing to set the standard backwards, despite what others say. If discrimination was so rampant, surely we would have heard many instances of people being thrown out of restaurants, stores, etc. That is simply not the case. I definitely do not believe anybody should be denied service in such a way, but if they are, it's not as if they can simply call the police and the authorities will stand guard as they have their meal, etc. They would have to sue. Under what was passed in Indiana, anybody who would have thrown a gay couple out of a restaurant or store would almost certainly have lost a lawsuit. The law simply gave legal standing for people to be able to claim that the government was offering an unreasonable burden to the practice of their faith. So, absolutely nothing would have changed in that regard.

I could go on for literally two hours talking about this on here and all the different angles, but I have already wasted too much time this week discussing this online with people who do not even want to look at the facts, and I need to be brief and eventually get to the Presidential campaign angle. In my view, there ought to be distinctions made for those who run stores or public gathering spots and those who contact out their services such as bakers, photographers, florists, print shop owners, etc. Those people, should have the right to run their businesses, and turn away money, for matters of conscience, even if they are not religion-based. In many circumstances, it might be dumb and even morally wrong to turn away business in such a way, but those freedoms are part of what America is all about. Anybody who would be turned away for a reason that might be considered "narrow minded" would find it quite easy to find another location in the free market system to meet their need.

A small, family-owned Christian bakery should not be mandated by law to bake a cake for a same sex wedding. If anybody wants a same sex wedding cake in 2015, it would probably be amazingly easy to find a place to provide one.

An African-American photographer should not be mandated by the law to take photos of a KKK gathering. Someone else would be willing to do so.

A gay florist should not be mandated by law to produce a flower arrangement that says "Gay Marriage Is A Sin." Someone else would be willing to do so.

A Jewish print shop owner should not be mandated by law to print business cards that have a swastika on them. Someone else would be willing to do so.

A Muslim owned website hosting company should not be mandated by law to maintain a website that demeans Muhammad. Someone else would be willing to do so.

Protections should exist for any of the above situations mentioned. That is what America is about. People should not have to lose their livelihoods or their conscience. The angry voices on the left would not offer protections to the Christian bakery example, but likely would for all the other circumstances I listed. That makes them very hypocritical. Furthermore, their "sensitivity" would probably let them excuse a Muslim bakery from the same sex wedding thing.

When these examples, and many others are offered, liberals this past week have been unwilling to even consider the ramifications. They just yell about intolerance and act as if offering those kinds of protections are going to empower bigots to do things that are not currently being done.

As mentioned, the left is winning on gay rights issues. By all means, they should be happy about that, but they are demanding that people march in totalitarian lockstep. Maybe somebody might be old-fashioned or "wrong", but why they must be totally extinguished from American life? That's not the way to win hearts or minds. It is logically and morally inconsistent to deny protections for one of the business examples given above but not all. If that is the kind of society we are headed towards, there will be plenty of examples of people on both sides deliberately trying to enflame those who disagree and it will be a tit for tat battle that will greatly divide our country.

So, Indiana and Arkansas have now both made changes to their legislation which may allay some concerns, but the left has certainly seen that if they act angry enough in public and on social media, they can generate reactions from the media and corporate American will will cause the other side to retreat, even if the outage is factually incorrect or hypocritical.

I can certainly understand why many on the right may be disappointed to see the lack of political and religious figures being overly vocal in defending the rights of people of faith to not be harmed, when the hypothetical harm they would supposedly cause against others is so minor in comparison. A poor naive woman, whose family owns a pizza shop in a small Indiana town was interviewed by a television reporter who was literally shopping for a bigot, and the woman said that while they would never deny anybody service at their restaurant, they could not in good conscience provide catering services for a same sex wedding. Who asks a small pizza shop to cater a wedding? Let alone a gay wedding? Beam me up.

Once those comments were made on tv, threats from across the country, including death threats and those to burn down their business began. This family had to close their doors and go into virtual hiding and may never re-open because of such an un-American and out of line response. I probably disagree with some of this family's views, but I admit to joining thousands of others this week in giving a small online donation to a fund that had been set up for them, because I find what the left has been doing to be so abhorrent.

Not long ago, Indiana Governor Mike Pence was looked at as a potential GOP Presidential candidate, with strong conservative bona fides. While he might not really have run, his hopes for 2016 and perhaps forever are now dashed, because he seemed so taken aback and a bit rattled by all of this. Most, though not all, of the 2016 Republican White House hopefuls did speak up to offer support for Pence and Indiana, but the reaction of corporate America and others in the party seemed to cause most to tenor their remarks. While I believe Jeb Bush was consistent in initially expressing support for the effort in Indiana, but then saying that is was reasonable to fix the law to guarantee protections to gays and lesbians, others have felt that he has changed his tune.

Matters like this are likely to come up and time and again, as candidates in both parties go about the long task of trying to wrap up Presidential nominations. There is no doubt though that this issue has mobilized the left and helped them raise money. People on the right tend to be a little more fearful of wading too far into this battle.

Democrats lost big in 2014 over the economy and national security/foreign policy matters. The latter continues to look like it might be a large part of the election, to the benefit of Republicans, so Democrats certainly have a vested interest in trying to gin up divisive wedge issues on social matters, in order to go about their time honored tradition of trying to paint all Republicans as racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. They will create and try to capitalize on any myth (such as "Hands Up Don't Shoot), regardless of the facts, just to wage political battle.

There is also of course tremendous irony among the left who wants to boycott the State of Indiana for myths about what might happen to gay people but at the same time are rushing to approve a deal to empower the Islamic Republic of Iran, where gays are executed simply for being gay. As would be expected, they refuse to publicly examine that angle.

Republicans should stand for freedom, without hypocrisy, for all people, including gays and lesbians, and including people of faith. We all have the duty to obey the laws and the expectation that we can live in a civil society, but not everyone is or should be expected to agree on every issue or be mandated to lose their freedom at the expense of someone else. The left is on shaky ground on these matters, but that will be exposed, if they succeed in silencing their opposition.

As we move forward towards 2016 and beyond, there is no reason that we as a democracy, through our elected representatives, cannot help forge compromises that protect both minority groups and those who also want to the freedom to practice their faith and live by their own consciences.

The next President should be someone who wants to bring the country together, as much as possible, and not someone who wants to see crises created in the name of political opportunity.


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