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Friday, June 24, 2016

"How did we get here?" An essay on the state of Republican politics, Pt. 8

Is there a way forward?
“I don’t try to figure them out. Everybody decides these things on the basis of — I don’t know what.”
Governor John Kasich, telephone interview, March, 2016
You own his politics. You own his policies, even the ones that only last as long as the next contradiction. You own the racial animus that started out as a bug, became a feature and is now the defining characteristic of his campaign. You own every crazy, vile chunk of word vomit that spews from his mouth. You own his racist bleatings about Mexicans and “his” African Americans. You own his digital Hitler Youth alt-reich fanboys with their white-power fantasies and roaring anti-Semitism.
Rick Wilson, “After Judge Curiel, What Will Endorsing Donald Trump Do To GOP Candidates?,”, June 4, 2016

[The Republican Party is] headed to Cleveland for what, knowing the candidate, was sure to be the yuugest, most obscene, most joyfully tacky tribute to a single person ever seen in the television age. If the convention isn't Liberace meets Stalin meets Vince McMahon, it'll be a massive disappointment.

Matt Taibbi, “R.I.P., GOP: How Trump is Killing the Republican Party,” Rolling Stone,
May 18, 2015
Of course there is. But no one will take it.
But it doesn’t involve the bullshit of the last ten years, in which GOP elders and upstarts alike have argued,”it’s not our message, it’s how we phrase it.”
There will not be a Sally Field moment for the groups the GOP has so profitably demonized for so long. The party is stuck with irritable old white folks and whatever else will respond to the rattling the stick in the swill bucket.
Smart and sensible is not the road the GOP will take, not even if the voters hand them a Goldwater/Landon-style shellacking in November. Too many believe the way forward for the party is to be more, no less, as it is. The rest believe the way forward is backward.
And some believe both at once.
Thus the universally-despised, Elmer Gantry senator, Ted Cruz, emerged as the establishment choice for the Republican presidential nomination. More right-wing than Goldwater, more authoritarian than Trump, more Ivy League than almost anyone- a clerk to the Chief Justice of the United States, for God’s sake- he offered only the virtues of predictability and insider, elite-track careerism to comfort the power broker and the money men, while snarling at is audiences, assuring them he’s just another Texas shitkicker. As Frank Bruni noted, as Cruz struck his tent, he wears cowboy boots, but his favorite pair is ostrich.
Cruz, of course, is gone but not dead. He announced his 2018 campaign for another six years in the Washington Cartel, and schemes to impose a sharia law platform on the GOP for his return engagement, “2020: I told you so!”
A Washington Times columnist- hailing from a limb where no Republican antics can ever foul the party’s nest- found himself driven to distraction by the GOP establishment's attempt to slather lipstick on Cruz as a mainstream anti-Trump:
In the past eight years, no one has captivated the realistic hopes of conservative constitutionalists the way that Cruz has in this election. On every single issue of importance to conservatives, Cruz is right. He is a walking, living, breathing Supreme Court dissent, masterfully articulated and extensively annotated on paper.

Then, he opens his mouth. And people scream. They run for the exits as if their hair is on fire. They want to take a shower.
So far to the right has the party’s political and moral center gone that Governor John Kasich- he who styled himself the “adult” in the race- offered this policy response to LGBT discrimination laws:
[I]f you’re feeling like somebody is doing something wrong against you, can you just for a second get over it?”
(Last October, Kasich told a New Hampshire audience how to deal with his plan to reduce social security payments to old people: "Well, you'd get over it, and you're going to have to get over it.”
(He’s not alone in the Get Over It Caucus. In May, Donald Trump told Megyn Kelly, “People are bullied when they’re 55,” Trump said. Kelly, sensing the irony of the moment, replied with a coy smile: “Can happen when you’re 45.”

(“You know, it happens, right?” Trump continued. “But you gotta get over it. Fight back, do whatever you have to do.” Opposing bullying penalties under law is Republican orthodoxy: they argue making it illegal to bully school kids you think are gay promotes homosexuality).
Kasich’s delegate totals reflect his inability, when it comes to attracting the GOP’s core voters, to distinguish between “candor” and “pander.” With either choice- Trump or Cruz- the November strategy for the Republicans is “2016: The Old White Guys’ Final Revenge.”
Tyler Cowen, the George Mason University economist,  proposed an interesting thought experiment in March, 2016, at his website Marginal Revolution:
As the possible nomination of Trump approaches, many Republicans are worried about the Party crashing.  That could occur through convention warfare, a Trump nomination and an electoral disaster, or a non-Trump nomination and an electoral disaster.  Maybe all of the above!

And what is wrong with the Party crashing?  (Please, dear reader, consider this question from a logistic rather than a partisan point of view.)  The Party contains information.  Relationships.  Procedures and processes and established patterns of cooperation.  A well-known brand name.  Organizational capital is lost if those connections are blown up and then go away.  It would cost a good deal to rebuild them, whether through a new third party or through a reconstitution of the Republican Party in some new guise.

Large blocs of voters are in essence needed to help cover those fixed costs.  If you tell too many voters to go away, however that might be done, the fixed costs can’t be paid the next time around and a new organization must be created, backed by some other, partially-overlapping group of voters.  So during “bad times” Republicans still may wish to keep the Republican Party afloat, especially if they believe it is a viable concern over the longer haul.

This, by the way, is the same logic behind bank and corporate bailouts   If the afflicted company is allowed to go under, a lot of organizational capital will be lost in what otherwise might be viable enterprises.  (I am not suggesting those bailouts have zero cost, or are necessarily good, only that there is some associated benefit.)

So if you are a Republican, and considering supporting Donald Trump “for the sake of the party.” you are in essence considering whether a bailout of the Party is a good idea.  Except instead of bailing out a private company with your taxes, or guaranteed credit, you are bailing out a political party with your …[fill in the blank]…

I believe that many of the people who usually claim to oppose bailouts will favor this one.
At the state level, Republican legislators are making more and more clear that they do not have to listen to constituents who disagree with them. In The Washington Post, Paul Waldman framed the divide:

The bathroom issue highlights how Red America and Blue America are moving farther and farther apart. If you live in a state controlled by Republicans, your state legislature and your governor will ensure that gay people aren’t protected from discrimination, make abortions almost impossible to obtain, slash social services, undermine unions, make sure you can take your gun to church and generally do what they can to turn your state into a paradise of “traditional” values and right-wing economics. If you live in a Democratic state, your representatives are probably busy raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana, expanding government-provided health care and child care, protecting people from discrimination and generally doing all the things the people in red states find horrifying.

One Republican legislator in Alabama recently published a letter chiding a constituent for not being a native Alabamian and a true conservative. He wrote that he couldn’t care less what she thought, and that if she didn’t like what was going on, she could move back to her home state.

The day the North Carolina General Assembly adopted its emergency antigay law, the Nebraska Senate Republicans torpedoed an antidiscrimination law there. Senator Bill Kintner said the answer was for gays to just leave the state.

An April 21 Greensboro News & Record story reported that, of the 168 members of the General Assembly, 41 favor repeal or serious amendment of HB2, the NC GOP's internationally notorious discrimination law in the regular session beginning April 25.

None are Republicans. Of their number, only eleven were willing to admit being foursquare behind it. Seventeen waffled. They were busy with things like prepping for a Rotary Club meeting, or running for Congress. One, Republican who voted for the legislation, Rep. William Brawley, responded of the survey: "We read your questionnaire and believed it was a trap and I would not respond."

Another said he just refers all questions about what he believes to Speaker Tim Moore’s office.

As the N&O story leads, everyone in the world seems to be talking about HB2- except North Carolina’s elected reps. They don’t have to talk about it, or listen to anyone else talk about it. Responsive democracy is beneath them.

Legislative measures are becoming more and more draconian, setting the Republicans gerrymandered majorities against the citizenry they were, ostensibly, elected to represent. This new Republican mantra: punish progress.

Alabama- and North Carolina- has banned cities from setting minimum wages, and is considering banning anyone who owns a car from receiving food support.

Mississippi’s senate has passed a bill to repeal physical abuse of one’s spouse as a ground for divorce.

Bill Moyers has written of some other innovations from The Party of Ideas:

The Republicans in southern California just got a 7-6 majority on the region’s air quality board and have set out to reverse all of its safeguards, “reaffirming new smog rules backed by oil refineries and other major polluters,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Mary Lou Bruner, a Republican crank in Texas who claimed that a young Barack Obama had worked as a black male prostitute, is on track to become a key vote on the state’s board of education, the group that, as Matt Levin at The Houston Chronicle writes, is, “already drawing intense criticism for textbooks that, among other issues, downplayed slavery and racial segregation.”

That’s important because the school board is such a major buyer of books its decisions affect editorial content in texts all over the country. So remember that Bruner is an eccentric whose Facebook declarations include “School shootings started after the schools started teaching evolution” and “The dinosaurs on the ark may have been babies and not able to reproduce. It might make sense to take the small dinosaurs onto the ark instead of the ones bigger than a bus.” Huh? Yet Republican elites seem quite satisfied to have a Mary Lou Bruner as the arbiter of what their children read in schools.

(Most recently, Mrs Bruner also came out against kindergarten programs because President Obama will use them to convert your children and grandchildren into gay Muslims; her views were apparently a little too overt even for Texas Republicans, who defeated her in the primary even as their state party convention prepared to debate secession from the Union).

A Republican legislator in Louisiana has introduced a family values, small-government bill to require the state to set maximum weights for performers in strip clubs.

In Kansas, the legislature is set on eliminating the courts to prevent its social experiments being overturned; a judge who declares a law unconstitutional can be impeached for it. The state’s coffers are empty, but the legislature thought placing a $2500 bounty on any transgender student turned in for using the “wrong” restroom would get matters in hand; the bill failed to advance in this session.

In Kentucky the new governor, Matt Bevin, is removing appointed office holders by executive order. In May, after he removed a member of the state Retirement Systems Board and the Attorney General ruled the move illegal, Bevin sent armed state police officers to arrest the removed member if he showed up for work.

Bevin has also sequestered $18 million in university funding on his own initiative- cuts he has imposed in the middle of a school year. He has replaced all the state university boards, and says he has the power to do it again, and as often as he likes.

With his other hand, he released $18 million in state funds to help prop up the opening of a creationist theme park arrayed around an “authentic” model of the Ark (who knew Noah had structural steel and Tyvek?).

In Arizona, the choice is shaping up between paid sick leave and no cops. Cities that choose the former will lose funding for the latter.

In Texas, Rep. Matt Schaefer got an amendment passed in 2016 that would require women bearing a dead fetus to carry it to full term. The Oklahoma legislature criminalized the performance of abortions by doctors in May.

In late March, a federal court in Florida struck down a novel gerrymandering plan that used prisoners to skew voting districts. The inmates- who cannot vote and are assigned their prisons by the state- are, nonetheless, counted as residents of the county where they live when it comes to redistricting (Oklahoma Senator Tom Cotton, perhaps seeing the possibilities such schemes offer, recently declared America has, in fact, an “under-incarceration problem”; for-profit prisons nodded their agreement).

Nor does the party seemed to have learned much when it comes to candidate recruitment. Sharron Angle, the Arizona Republican Senate candidate in 2010, has thrown her hat in the run again, tweeting, “2nd Amendment remedies will be my solution to EVERYTHING."

Reihan Salam, the conservative columnist, neatly sums up how Republicans are missing the point in 2016:

When mainstream conservatives fret about how Trump is wrecking the GOP, I nod along with them. I’m not a fan either. Among the less-than-ancient, however, the GOP brand has already been wrecked by the less-than-dizzyingly-successful Bush years, which saw a bloody quagmire in Iraq, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, and a catastrophic financial crisis that scarred the lives of tens of millions of young people, and from which roughly half of the country hasn’t fully recovered. What have Republicans done in the Obama years? They’ve said precious little about youth unemployment and student loan debt while attacking Obamacare subsidies out of a fear that they might threaten Medicare benefits for retirees. Trump is promising to bring back manufacturing jobs from China and Mexico which have mostly been lost to machines while saying virtually nothing about where the jobs of the future will come from.

The fact is, it is just easier to go along, despite all the conservative chatter about principles and appeasement and the like. As Kathleen Parker, the conservative South Carolina columnist, wrote in The Washington Post March 23,

The conundrum for Republicans is that though Trump may be the devil, he’s their devil. How can they condemn the guy that a near-majority of their own party prefers? If you’re, say, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), how do you say you won’t support your party’s nominee? Then again, if you’re a good man like Ryan, how do you support him?

That is the question of the moment, isn’t it? This is what we ask ourselves about the industrialists and “good Germans” who supported Hitler. This is what we ask our Southern grandparents about the time when blacks were being lynched. What we ask the World War II generation about rounding up Japanese Americans. And while we’re at it, what was your vote on Vietnam, Iraq? There’s a price to pay for silence.

That so few have shown the courage to deny Trump tells us how difficult it is to be brave — and how rare character is. But one can only pretend for so long not to hear the dog whistles of history, a skill at which Republicans have become too well practiced over the decades. Perhaps they’re no longer listening. Or they’re deluding themselves that Trump’s words don’t really mean what, you know, they mean.

“He won’t be that bad.”

No, he’s worse.

For his part, Speaker Ryan has proved oleaginous to a fault. He wants to support Trump, he says, but he can’t- with a qualifier. Like Augustine, he wants to do the right thing, eventually. “Oh, Lord, make me chaste,” the saint prayed. “But not just yet.”

Seeing a chance to slide out of Cleveland entirely, Ryan announced May 9 he would step aside as convention chair if The Donald asked him to. A week later they had a fabulous meeting, announcing they agreed they agree on virtually nothing, and the Speaker said it was important not “fake unity” with the man who had just declared GOP unity would be nice, but is not necessary in his view. Unleashing his inner Warren Harding, Ryan declared that he wanted “a standard-bearer who bears our standards.”

This sort of thing drives the party’s thought leaders nuts. Charles Krauthammer called the meeting a “sham marriage.” You know things are really bad when conservatives dust off a term of opprobrium reserved, for a quarter century, for homosexuals.
George Bernard Shaw once asked an attractive socialite whether she’d sleep with him for a million pounds. After she answered in the affirmative, he offered her a mere 10 shillings. Outraged, she railed: “What do you take me for? A prostitute?” Shaw reputedly replied: “We’ve already determined that. We’re just haggling over the price.”

Ryan endorsed Trump on June 3. Three days later, he denounced Trump’s campaign against a federal judge as “textbook racism,” but stuck with that endorsement. “At the end of the day, this is about ideas,” he parroted. And the racist is more likely to give us what we want.

This is a fine new distinction, one I did not know existed. Congressman Peter King, a 72-year-old Republican TV hound, explained it:

"There's not a hint of racism,” King said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”“What he said last week was racist but I make a distinction between a remark that is racist and a person who - he's almost 70-years-old,” he continued. “He's been in the public light and the private light all those years and nothing has come up that I'm aware of, of any type of racism at all.”
All that holds the party together in the summer of ‘16 is The Other, now morphed in to Hillary Clinton.

But Republicans will convince themselves they can do business with him. In June, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell- a leader of the  “we can manage him” school- told Bloomberg News:

He needs someone highly experienced and very knowledgeable because it's pretty obvious he doesn't know a lot about the issues,” McConnell told Bloomberg. “You see that in the debates in which he's participated. It's why I have argued to him publicly and privately that he ought to use a script more often—there is nothing wrong with having prepared texts.

They are wrong, all of them who believe they can manage The Donald. Chris Barron, a delusional gay Republican who stage-managed Trump’s debut as a serious potential candidate, before CPAC in 2011, recently apologized in The Guardian:

Man, I had no idea this is where we would end up.

I loved the idea of Trump running for president. The idea of a charismatic, successful businessman who wouldn’t be a captive to special interests and who could fundamentally shake up the broken political status quo.

I thought Trump could follow in Reagan’s footsteps. I was wrong.

Another conservative wunderkind, columnist Ben Shapiro, resigned his sinecure at Breitbart over the coziness with Trump that led many to claim its figleaf-sized claim to the practice of journalism was from a plastic wreath bought at Wal-Mart. He, too, has admitted he built his career on seeing the world from the conclusions he wanted to reach:

I’ve spent most of my career arguing that anti-Semitism in the United States is almost entirely a product of the political Left. I’ve traveled across the country from Iowa to Texas; I’ve rarely seen an iota of true anti-Semitism. I’ve sensed far more anti-Jewish animus from leftist college students at the University of California, Los Angeles, than from churches in Valencia. As an observer of President Obama’s thoroughgoing anti-Israel administration, I could easily link the anti-Semitism of the Left to its disdain for both Biblical morality and Israeli success over its primary Islamist adversaries. The anti-Semitism I’d heard about from my grandparents — the country-club anti-Semitism, the alleged white-supremacist leanings of rednecks from the backwoods — was a figment of the imagination, I figured.

I figured wrong.
The Republican soap opera will forge ahead. Reports of the party’s implosion, or breakup will prove unfounded. And they will make their accommodation with Trumpery. Dissenters will return. Senator Kelly Ayotte says she will “support the party’s nominee” but not endorse him. Only journos are trying to parse that; Republicans remain po-faced. They all have their variants, all of which involve not speaking Donald Trump's name, but Beetlejuice showed up anyway; long-forgotten are their denunciations of the President for passing on the incantation, “radical Islamic terrorism.”
We have seen this before. The Bull Moosers who left the GOP in 1912 were, for the most part, back in tent by 1920.
As the post-Indiana post-mortems pile up, Ross Douthat has offered one of the best, writing, in part,
Finally, Trump proved that many professional True Conservatives, many of the same people who flayed RINOs and demanded purity throughout the Obama era, were actually just playing a convenient part. From Fox News’ 10 p.m. hour to talk radio to the ranks of lesser pundits, a long list of people who should have been all-in for Cruz on ideological grounds either flirted with Trump, affected neutrality or threw down their cloaks for the Donald to stomp over to the nomination. Cruz thought he would have a movement behind him, but part of that movement was actually a racket, and Trumpistas were simply better marks.
Republicans have become what put me off North Carolina Democrats half a century ago: a party bereft of ideas, out of touch with the times, and devoted to its continuation in office above all else.
When a federal court struck down its congressional redistricting map for its overtly racial basis, the party simple redrew the lines for overtly partisan effect. And they made no bones about it. With only half the popular vote, they had ten of the thirteen congressional seats, and by damn, they were gonna keep ‘em.
March 23, 2016, the North Carolina Republican Party’s legislators summoned themselves back into session. Charlotte Magazine shorthands the result:
Here’s what the North Carolina General Assembly did today, in your name, with your money: passed a bill that effectively defines “transgender” out of existence; forces transgender men to use women’s rooms and transgender women to use the men’s; allows private businesses to discriminate against gay and transgender people; prohibits local governments from preventing such discrimination; prohibits local governments from setting any employment standards, including minimum wage, for businesses they hire as contractors; jeopardizes $4.6 billion in federal Title IX funding for schools; nullifies every nondiscrimination ordinance ever passed by any local government in the state; allowed legislators five minutes to read the bill; allowed the public 30 minutes to comment on it; placed North Carolina on the regressive side of the state of Tennessee; claimed to be motivated by the need to establish consistent statewide standards for business operation in order to “improve intrastate commerce,” ignoring a brace of North Carolina companies that today publicly announced their opposition to the bill; and declared “that the general welfare of the State requires the enactment of this law under the police power of the State”; all predicated on their genuine or feigned horror over a presumed danger that has been shown, definitively, not to exist.
I sent my friend a message, advising that I hoped to have this report answering his question finished soon.And I asked one of my own:
Do you support what the General Assembly did today?
Though I could not have know it, it was a bad day in my friend’s life, but he responded:
I had to go look to see just what they did today, although I knew that they were in session and the reason they were there.  I have had a dreadful day, which included a funeral for a friend of more than 40 years.  Tonight, my father-in-law passed away about 2 hours ago.  

In fairness, I have not read the legislation, so I cannot give you any detailed legal analysis, or any analysis of the substance.  But I do have some bigger picture thoughts on the matter.

As a father of a grown gay son, as a lawyer and as a lifelong Quaker, I have a strong commitment to equality under the law.  I think that the key factor in the success of the gay marriage cases was that, ultimately, if the guys down the street wanted to get married and go on with life, most folks finally figured out that it was no threat to them or to their own marriages.
LGBT bathrooms?  Right or wrong, rational or irrational, justified or not, a 30 year old soccer mom with a 9 year old daughter absolutely does fear a person with a penis sharing a previously gender-segregated restroom.  The LGBT folks pushed too hard for such a minimal victory in Charlotte.  Now, they are feeling the heavy handed reaction to their over-reach.  I am sickened by the General Assembly's hateful, haughty attitude, but I understand why there has been a call to action.

This will prove to be an unnecessary and costly fight.  LGBT folks should pick and package their battles more deftly.  This episode will be a setback for the LGBT cause.
I conveyed my regrets to my friend over his misfortunes. And I went to bed feeling his response was something I’d experienced before. Let me explain.
In 2004, another close friend from my Republican political days, the late Oregon state representative Kelly Clark, took marriage equality in that state, and overturned it in court.
Willamette Week, a local paper, highlighted the contradiction: as a young Republican legislative star a decade earlier, he’d earned the enmity of party conservatives advancing what would, by present-day standards, be a pretty tepid gay rights bill.
Kelly and I were law school classmates, and close friends. I was part of his campaign’s inner circle; if he had showed up on my doorstep at 2 am and said, “Come with me,” I’d have done so, no questions asked.
That would have been a mistake, as it turned out:
In 1990, he separated from his wife of seven years and became involved with a state employee.

Just as Clark hit the apex of his political clout in the spring of 1992--when he announced that he was forming a fundraising committee for a campaign to become state attorney general--his family staged an intervention and shipped him off in secret to the Springfield Northwest rehab facility in Newberg. While there, Clark decided to withdraw from politics to get his life in order.

Clark's rehab counselor drove him from Newberg to a press conference, where Clark announced his withdrawal from the AG race for personal reasons. No one was the wiser; Clark still seemed the clean-cut Ken doll. But when he exited therapy a month later, Clark was still mentally unwell.

The woman he had been seeing broke off their relationship as his behavior became more bizarre. She later wrote that Clark sent her "frightening poetry" and had "tried to stab [her] with scissors." Clark couldn't accept the loss.

"Sometimes when people are in recovery, they say they're stark-raving sober," Clark explains. "They've got all the same problems they had before, but they don't have the medicine of alcohol anymore. Instead of walking away gracefully, I...just could not let go."

His mania culminated on June 10, 1992, when at 2 am Clark broke into his ex-girlfriend's Keizer home, disconnected the phone line, and locked the door behind him. She awoke with Clark standing above her in bed. For four hours, he subjected her to what the courts deemed "sexual contact without consent."

Clark later pleaded guilty to criminal trespass and third-degree sexual abuse, paid a $5,000 fine and received five years' probation. The Oregon State Bar suspended his license to practice law for two months. Then he disappeared.
But not for long. He reinvented himself as the tribune of sex abuse victims- by the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts and the contingent fees they generated made him wealthy as he made his way through two more wives. To his credit, he did force the BSA to make public its secret files documenting a scout leadership relocation program worth of any archdiocese in the world.
Willamette Week commented,
The question at this point seems not to be whether Clark's mind is open, but what could possibly be going through it. He is a sex offender who has made a mint defending the sexually abused, and he's also a former gay-rights advocate being paid to dismantle the biggest gay-rights victory in Oregon history.

Clark sees no inconsistency, because in both cases he says he is motivated by the same dominating passion: disgust with the misuse of power.

"I get to represent the little guy going up against the big guy," he says. "I absolutely love that, whether it's the church, the government, insurance companies, banks."
When he took the marriage case, I emailed Kelly, asking how he could get up before the court and argue I- one of his closest friends and advisors- was just a little less a citizen than he.
To my astonishment, I ended up in the Willamette Week story offered up by Kelly as a shining example of broad-mindedness:
"My daughter's godfather--who is gay--wrote me and said, 'Boy, it's hard to see you up on TV declaring that I'm less equal than you,'" Clark says. "I wrote back and said, 'That's not what I'm saying. You are my equal or superior in every way.' That's what's so hard for me."
I suppose, in another time, Kelly would have considered me a credit to my race.
I felt some of that same old, familiar feeling in my friend’s response to my question about HB2: the compartmentalization of good gays like me in one mental box (At least, I hope I am there); the thoughtless, grasping, overreaching bad gays in another- “they.”  
Making me part of an abstraction does not, however, avoid the whiff of condescension that sort of comment carries. It also indicates a lack of thought over what it is like to tell someone else to guess when the majority will be in the mood to dole out a little more of the rights they take for granted, and wonder why we don’t just be patient.
After all, “they”- we, I- made things harder for themselves- ourselves, and me.
They should pick their battles more smartly. They should have listened to their betters. This sort of incrementalist downtalking was one thing that united segregationists and integrationists alike: the time will come, but not yet. Billy Graham carried the day forward into eternity. Men will not change in this life, he argued. So suck it up, be good, self-deprecating Christians, and- who knows? Maybe Heaven won’t be segregated, too!
That sort of talk makes me feel like one of the Virtuous Pagans in Dante’s Limbo: well- I’m well-meaning, but eternally compromised; respected, but still, in the end, “they.” It’s my mess. I will have to live with the consequences of my bad choices.
We have, of course, heard such arguments before, in a different historical context:
And, although I have imperfect childhood memories of that time past, the contemporary resonance- we’re in Eco’s cemetery yet again- rankled.
I have wondered if my friend has considered how, as Kelly Clark managed, one tells Group A1, “you are worthy of the same rights I have,” while telling Group A2, “you are just too weird for the moment. You frighten 30-year-old Republican moms. You must wait your turn.” Or perhaps, from the vantage point of never having been an outsider to the law, the calculations are different, easier and requiring less thought. They are not shoes in which one needs to walk any distance, long or short.
The hallmark of a great democracy- a truly shining city on a hill-is its generosity: when it extends the benefits of being a part simply because it can. My friend’s faith- and mine- spring from the same, five hundred year-old tradition: “Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda”:  the church reformed and always reforming. America’s roots thrive in that soil as well.
As a small, largely silent member of the “they” that brought the North Carolina legislation upon themselves by doing nothing other than read my daily rut, I see things differently.
I don’t see how even the most frightened 30-year-old Republican mom in the universe could demand that the price of her security in a restroom include suppression of living wage ordinances.
I don’t see how teaching a rogue city a lesson about home rule limitations requires leaving a large body of North Carolinians without any remedy in law for discrimination. Indeed, offered the chance to have their cake and still seem magnanimous, Republicans in Raleigh were offered amendments to include gays in the scope of state anti discrimination policy. They refused to consider them.
I don’t understand how stripping every North Carolinian of any recourse in state court for any form of discrimination make the 30-year-old soccer mom feel safer having a pee? Since most federal law also does not include sexual orientation as a protected class, I am virtually defenseless in law. Do to me what you like. It’s open season, and no permits are required.
I don’t see how it can be anything but an expression of animus toward a disfavored group to declare something they do illegal but provide no penalty  or enforcement mechanism to prevent it. Over the last six weeks we have seen the first flowering of bathroom vigilantism, in North Carolina and elsewhere.
I don’t understand the implication of my friend’s email that, if “the gay leaders” hadn’t led with a transgender issue- or raised it at all- they might have done better begging for another grudging slice of equality. Was it so bad an idea that the entire state had to feel the lash in punishment? Or did all of HB2’s business freebies offer the savor of legislators telling their largely rural constituents, “It’s what we had to do to put them back in their places. Blame them, not us. We’re protecting you.”
Fighting for equal rights is not the movie Seven Waves Away. There, Tyrone Power played a sunken ship’s captain in an overcrowded lifeboat. Faced with the choice of the lifeboat sinking under the pull of survivors in the water, he had to decide who would be cast off.
That’s not how the “we” who make up “they” see things. You don’t cast off one of your own because they aren’t pretty, or clever, enough to win favor, or because they weird out a suburban soccer mom. This is a concept long honored in the Republican Party, where most retrograde opinions- and their holders- are still embraced under the big tent.  
In The Common Law, Justice Holmes made how I- and we- feel- readily comprehensible:
“Even a dog distinguishes between being stumbled over and being kicked.”
Oddly, neither the messaging nor the law does anything to protect little girls from the predations of gimlet-eyed lesbian women: the traditional menace to decent society in decades of film and television portrayals. Nor does the protection of men and boys loom large on conservatives’ early warning radar.
A group of the #NeverTrump persuasion have taken to invoking the first Republican president as the standard against which The Donald, measured, fails. This is, of course, nonsense, except for the skimpy cover it gives their civil rights record since 1954.
Lincoln could have been seeing the future of his party when he wrote, in a letter,
As a nation, we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal, except negroes.' When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.' When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.
Transgender issues are new ground for many, especially those who elect not to give them much, if any, thought. The same was true, thirty years ago, when a man with HIV came to see me wondering about discrimination he was encountering. I didn’t know what to do. There was almost no law on the books. My employer, the author of a multivolume work on family law in that state, dealt with marriage equality in one sentence. There wasn’t any.
I learned the law. When I found how little there was, I learned how to bend existing law to include the excluded. When that was insufficient, I lobbied for new laws. And when, early in this century, I began getting transgender clients, I repeated that process anew. I learned. I hired transgender law clerks, and lobbied to get them judicial clerkships.
We grow stronger by making our muscles ache, physical and mental. We deal with change by addressing it. America is stuck- and sick- with festering racial issues because we haven’t addressed them. Too many just opted out, or settled for blaming others for being so annoyingly ungrateful and demanding of more.
A shared friend of my friend’s and I from College Republican days,  a former judge who was  darling of the state party until he came out- at the cost of his position- in the 1990s, wrote on Facebook on March 24:
Mississippi and South Carolina have always bid high in the game of hate and discrimination. But North Carolina legislators raised the ante to a new level.
You won't be seeing me in that backwater except as absolutely necessary to care for or assist family. No tourism and nothing that would in any way purposefully support its economy. I know both the governor, Pat McCrory, and bill sponsor, Rep. Dan Bishop, personally. They were once decent men. But the ring of power has ruined them and apparently shriveled their blackened souls into virtual nonexistence.
The late US House Speaker, Tip O’Neill, famously maintained, that all politics is local. In the age of social media, all politics is also personal. The Republican Party doesn’t seem to have the DNA to get that.
At best, they practice “tolerance”- they have little, cramped niches that allow their presidential candidates to insist they have gay friends who, inexplicably, so treasure those moments together they overlook the strident homophobic rhetoric, and promises of legislation, that are their stock in trade on the campaign trail. Yet one never finds out who their gay friends are. They are nameless, faceless, speechless.
Even Ted Cruz, two of whose six proposed US Constitutional amendments deal with undoing the marriages of hundreds of thousands of people, was flexible enough to attend fundraisers hosted by wealthy gay couples in Manhattan. New York values be damned; money is money.
The trouble is, the GOP list of groups they tolerate, whose friendships they cultivate for money and votes, grows ever longer, and their numbers larger. The party’s argument that they are the true party of diversity runs into the reality of the white guy ceiling every minority Republican office holder eventually hits.
Take South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who has what we in North Carolina politics used to call Jim Graham Syndrome, after the agriculture commissioner who could win that officer forever but never go any higher. Of course, it doesn’t help when Senator Scott parses his moral distinctions as finely as this, over Trump’s savaging of a federal judge:
"His comments were certainly racially toxic. I don't know the intent of his heart so I'm not going to call them racist comments but certainly they are racially toxic," Scott told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday. "The fact of the matter is we have to find a way to unite this country around one goal, one mission with everyone in the same boat."

Scott signaled there was a line that Trump could cross where he would revoke his endorsement, but "we're not there yet."

"I am supporting the Republican brand. I am supporting Donald Trump. I'm going to speak out when I think he does things that are inconsistent with the best interest of the country," Scott said.
Ditto Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley; Mia’s remarkable how few there are.  
The flash in the pan that was Carly Fiorina’s presidential campaign- and the even shorter vice presidential flash- put paid to any serious discussion of a conservative formulation of women's rights. Reflexive opposition to everything as “they” making their radical demands, will remain the order of the day.
Black Republicans find no traction at the presidential level, after they have their moment in the sun and then the voters turn back to their regular meat and potatoes. Their rise is mostly a function of there being so few of them. As Dr Johnson said of female preachers, the wonder is not that it is done, well; the wonder is that it done at all.
The fallen standard of a progressive, inclusive Republicanism, long championed by Jack Kemp, has been seized by Paul Ryan, but only as a prop: his success reflects a remarkable circle-squaring talent in which he talks the language of inclusion, diversity and uplift while leading a wing of the party hierarchy to oppose all those things (the author and Democratic Party operative Sidney Blumenthal recently said of Kemp, who died in 2009, “There was a decency to him and openness to Jack. [He] never imprinted himself on the party much.”)
The best one seems to get from the Republican Party is a detached interest, a Micawberesque wish that somehow, it will all work out. As long as there is no interest in actually doing something, to get some skin in the game, the GOP will remain stuck, flailing for new ways to get elderly white people angry at something, or somebody, every two years. The former Bush 2 speechwriter, Michael Gerson, observed in May, “They are aiding the transformation of a party formed by Lincoln’s blazing vision of equality into a party of white resentment.”
The political analyst Ron Brownstein recently pointed out in The Atlantic that, while the GOP reflex-pretending-to-be-a-plan may have some life in its this year, and elections to come, it’s at heart a denial of reality:
[I]f Trump’s mission of restoration has deepened his support, it has also imposed a restrictive boundary around it. The growing groups long eclipsed in American life have no idealized past moment they are longing to restore. A young Hispanic lawyer or middle-aged professional woman might not think they are treated equally today, but few are likely to believe people like them enjoyed more opportunities decades ago. The same is true for other racial and religious minorities, gays, and transgender people. For all of these groups, the past that Trump evokes is one that kept them subordinate, in the shadows, or worse.

“It’s almost a cultural nostalgia, for when white male culture [was] most dominant,” the Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher said. “When African American and Hispanic voters hear that … they get the joke that going back to the past [would be] great for some but at the expense of others.”
It’s 48 years since my parents took me to hear Richard Nixon speak at an airport rally in Charlotte, and not a damn thing has gotten better about the GOP’s treatment of LGBT Americans. New York Magazine writer Frank Rich was asked this question in June, 2016, after the slaughter of Orlando:
A few prominent Republicans, including Trump, Ryan, and Mitt Romney, have begun to speak in support of the LGBT community in the wake of the shooting. Is this political opportunism, or might it mark a real change in the GOP's stance toward LGBT recognition?
Rich responded:

Again, it’s business as usual. Republican politicians always speak warmly of
the LGBT community after its members are the victims of a horrific crime. Nonetheless, it took Ryan until Tuesday to acknowledge that gay people — or “the gays,” as Trump calls them — were targeted in Orlando. It took Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida, until Wednesday. There’s nothing to suggest that such politicians’ belated expressions of sympathy with the gay victims of a terror attack will change their anti-LGBT acts of public policy.

To see Republican hypocrisy in its rawest form, I implore everyone to take five minutes and watch Anderson Cooper’s rightly acclaimed CNN interview with Pam Bondi, the attorney general of Florida. Bondi is shedding many public tears, or at least rhetorical ones, over those who were slaughtered in her state, and she is congratulating herself (in the Trump manner) for all the good she is doing now for the victims and their families. But Cooper repeatedly refused to let Bondi wiggle away from the “sick irony” that as attorney general she had slimed gays when arguing in court against same-sex marriage, accusing them of doing “public harm.” And he also forced Bondi to confront the fact that if she had succeeded in overturning same-sex marriage, gay spouses would not be able to visit their loved ones fighting for their lives in an Orlando hospital. “I have never really seen you talk about gays and lesbians and transgendered people in a positive way until now,” Cooper told her. Bondi does, of course, have nothing but positive things to say about those gay people in the Pulse nightclub now that they are dead or wounded. Whether this is a genuine change of heart or merely a cynical political exploitation of a massacre can be determined by watching the Cooper interview for yourself.

The GOP’s continued institutional opposition to LGBT rights — exemplified not just by Bondi’s history in office but by the flood of so-called “religious liberty” bills nationwide seeking to undo same-sex marriage — is matched by the party’s inability to shake its reflexive homophobia. That stain extends to conservative elites. To take one badly timed example: In Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, published only hours before the Orlando bloodbath, you could find a column by the paper’s frequent contributor Joseph Epstein, whose career has been notable mainly for its homophobia. In 1970, a year after Stonewall, Epstein wrote a notorious 11-page essay for Harper's explaining why he “would wish homosexuality off the face of this earth” and why nothing his children "could ever do would make me sadder than if any of them were to become homosexual.” On the morning before Orlando nearly a half-century later, we find him being nothing if not consistent: He argued that Trump's benighted voters have been driven to him by media coverage of such things as "a lesbian couple kissing at their wedding ceremony" and "the need for men who 'identify' [Epstein's scare quotes] as women to have access to the public lavatories of their choosing." In Epstein's telling, the Trump voters appalled by such matters are not bigots — they are merely protesting what Epstein calls "progressivist" political correctness. Though his piece purports to be anti-Trump, it makes exactly Trump's argument.

Yes, there are gay Republicans, and there are many Republicans and conservatives who are not homophobic and in some cases support gay civil rights. But the toxins of bigotry remain at the core of the party institutionally, both in its actual stands on policy and its countenancing of homophobia like Epstein’s at its most elite levels.

How long, I long to ask my friend, do I have to go, hat in hand, to his majority, to ask for my rights? When will they decide the time has arrived?

Regrettably, the Republican Party lives its life unexamined.
Once proudly the party of Lincoln, it now seeks to dismantle civil rights laws.
Having created the national parks under Teddy Roosevelt, its congressional delegations seek to sell them off (though just giving them away would so please the likes of the Bundy Patriot land seizure types).
Long isolationists, they have come to stand for reckless, open ended interventions everywhere as a means of enforcing isolation at home.
They preach self-reliance, and bootstrapping, yet reject the kind of openness and acceptance of diversity Silicon Valley has used to dominate the world, scouring every corner for talent.
Pure research is a punching bag for anti-intellectualism; if it doesn’t create a job, or enrich the wealthy, what good is it? The University of North Carolina installed as its president a courtier of the Bush dynasty whose experience of higher education is “doing policy”, who sees students as “customers” who want a different “value proposition,” and who dismisses a substantial cohort of the university and state as a “lifestyle” she doesn’t discuss. Having HB2 compliance dropped in her lap after three months on the job is a karmic payback of the most elegant sort imaginable.
A News & Observer contributor noted, “[UNC Board of Governors chair John] Fennebresque was recently arrested at the Charlotte airport for having a gun in his briefcase. I don’t think he has served our country in the military, but he may feel the need to protect it as a private citizen. He certainly felt the need to protect the UNC system when, as chairman of the Board of Governors, he explained the reasons for replacing UNC President Tom Ross, as fine a leader as you will ever find: “We want a change agent, but we don’t know the specifics of what we want to change”);.
What modern Republicans don’t like, they first delegitimize. Statistics that show a rising economy are declared cooked. Polls that show them losing are rigged. Quotes in newspapers are made up. Film and audio of those quotes are edited and out of context. Climate change is a conspiracy to bring down the world economy by preventing the world economy from bringing down the world; when the data cannot be denied, simply defund the research and bar mention of the term. Governor Pat McCrory begged Braeburn Pharmaceutical, not to renege, post-HB2, a North Carolina plant. When they announced they were coming, HB2 be damned, he issued a press release attacking Braeburn for faking their HB2 concerns and being a tool of his election opponent’s plan to destroy the state’s economy.
Death penalty advocates on the right are reduced to making secret the meth lab -style experiments with which they concoct new potions, leaving the convicted to die agonizing, lengthy deaths strapped to tables when the cocktails don’t work so chemical companies will continue to fuel the machinery (an Oklahoma grand jury recently determined that state’s execution process “failed from start to implementation,” leading to the use of the wrong drugs in to botched executions). In May, pharma giant Pfizer became the twenty-first drug manufacturer to refuse to sell drugs for executions; Republican-led death states- whose fondness for back alley deals is not limited to abortion, are now forced to furtively scramble for supplies, The New York Times reported:

Some states have used straw buyers or tried to import drugs from abroad
that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, only to see them seized by federal agents. Some have covertly bought supplies from loosely regulated compounding pharmacies while others, including Arizona, Oklahoma and Ohio, have delayed executions for months or longer because of drug shortages or legal issues tied to injection procedures.
Experimenting with new drug combinations, shrugging off botched executions that inflicted prolonged, unimagined pain on convicts: the moral distance between a State and a meth lab operator, trying mix-and-match combos on the fly, or the cocaine dealer cutting his product with rat poison, is not great. It certainly puts the lie to the argument death penalty enthusiasts’ former lead argument: that we can satisfy atavistic needs in a humane, painless manner.
How many posthumous DNA exonerations of wrongly convicted felons will be enough to halt the killings? The answer is the same as how many school children, moviegoers and passersby need to be shot to death before sensible gun laws will be adopted: there will never be enough.
Clinging to the social mores and political paranoias of the Bell System, black dial-phone era, Republican candidates for president brag of not knowing how to use email or smart phones. A past chair of a Senate technology committee explained that the Internet is a series of tubes.
Women’s anatomy and reproductive systems are reduced to farce by a party whose candidates explain, ever so patiently, that women can shut down their ability to get pregnant when raped; if they do get pregnant, they must have enjoyed it, so we need not force law enforcement to process thousands of piled-up rape kits.
Children are such a gift from God that rapists may be said to commit a sacrament; even fetuses dead in the womb must be carried to term, and delivered, in the cruel formulation of some state legislators.
In the spring of 2016, Senator Chuck Grassley- who helped invent a clause in the Constitution that says presidents don’t get to nominate anyone to the Supreme Court 25% of the time if they serve two terms. Then he began attacking the Supreme Court as an institution, calling the Chief Justice a tool of the opposition, and making the novel argument that the nonpartisan, nonactivist role of the Court is only fulfilled when it does what conservatives want.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has wheeled onto the bandwagon with a call for the Court to be “swept up into the politics” for not overruling Obamacare.
One can, in a way, see their point. The more they drag down the Court’s standing, the less it matters who, if anyone, serves on it.
Donald Trump’s assault on Judge Curiel is, of course, nothing new for Republicans.  Senator Jesse Helms spent decades trying to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over abortion. Remember Terri Schiavo? Charlie Pierce does, recently recalling the attacks on the federal judge assigned that case in the middle of the night:
Federal judge James Whittemore had gone to bed that Sunday night, but, a little after three in the morning, his phone rang. His clerk was on the line and she was in tears. "I am so sorry," she told him. The Schindlers' last-chance lawsuit had landed in his court. The case shook Whittemore so much that he declines to discuss it to this day…However, [Whittemore spoke] on a panel at a meeting of the American Bar Association that discussed the pressures of working high-pressure, high-visibility cases. Whittemore opened up to that panel about the longest three days of his life. The day they got the case, he and his staff worked all night. At about ten o'clock, somebody sent out for pizza. At that exact moment, Nancy Grace, a CNN legal commentator who combines the nuance of a sledgehammer with the social graces of a Harpy, was raging at what she said was Whittemore's delay in ruling on the Schindlers' motion to have the PEG tube reinserted. What's keeping this judge? Grace wondered. He's probably out having a steak with his family.
On the fly, Whittemore and his staff were enveloped by a complex security system. They unplugged all their phones; Whittemore's secretary had gotten physically ill from the abuse. They secured the phones to the point that even Whittemore's mother's phone was routed to the federal marshal's office. Whittemore's sons were placed under protection. (A run-of-the-mill neighborhood arson in St. Petersburg turned into a federal case because it happened behind the house in which one of Whittemore's sons lived.) The person who cared for Whittemore's disabled daughter had to pass a full background check. "It does take its toll on you," Whittemore told the ABA panel. These were not idle precautions. As mentioned earlier, the man had already been arrested for offering a bounty on Judge Greer. The media was aflame.

Michael Savage called Democrats "an army of soulless ghouls," and the former White House aide and presidential candidate Pat Buchanan lumped the removal of the feeding tube with activities of German doctors in the 1930s. He called it a "crime against humanity."
The talk in more respectable quarters was little better. On the floor of the Senate, Senator John Cornyn of Texas seemed to threaten federal judges with physical harm, and this in a year in which one federal iudge, and the spouse of another, already had been killed. Other members of Congress talked darkly of defunding courts whose rulings they did not like.

In Michigan this year, the initiative process is bing amended to prevent ballots on measures the GOP majority dislikes.
Back in 1988, the Washington State Republican Party supported Pat Robertson for president and called for a constitutional ban on witchcraft; in 2010 Maryland Republicans nominated a witch as their candidate for the United States Senate.
Donald Trump has simply carried this practice to its logical end: overt threats. He is running a public vendetta against a federal judge hearing the Trump University case for being “Mexican” despite having been born and raised in Indiana, and a US citizen. He will punish the PGA to relocated a golf tournament he hosted. He will loosen libel laws to punish journalists after he finishes dressing them down in press conferences- if he hasn’t banned them. He indulges every schoolboy’s dream” instant, arbitrary retribution against all who wrong him.
Once parties tried to clothe their power grabs in some form of higher calling. The writer Quentin Crisp called morality “expediency in a long white dress.” These days Republican power grabs are paraded about naked. There is no dissent. A budget amendment to repeal HB2 was declared out of order by the Speaker. He barred its filing with the clerk.
As we learned from Raleigh, while HB2 opponents have a responsibility to engage in dialogue with our masters over HB2, that obligation did not arise until it was passed and signed into law, and the leadership of the legislature had declared it will not be amended or repealed.
The other side is not the honorable opposition any longer. They have been demonized by the Luntz Factory into an evil Other, and they must be shut out from power.
Now that elections can be openly bought, and the chief qualifications for office is the ability to self-fund, or to round up several billionaires to float a run for president, hypocrisy is no longer needed.
People- some- are asking- I have for a very long time- of government is so bad, and needs to be shrunk to the size of a lawn tractor, why do these people and their billionaire paymasters want so badly to rule it?
Norman Ornstein, I think, pretty well sums it up:
...But if you forced me to pick one factor explaining what's happened, I would say this is a self-inflicted wound by Republican leaders.

Over many years, they've adopted strategies that have trivialized and delegitimized government. They were willing to play to a nativist element. And they tried to use, instead of stand up to, the apocalyptic visions and extremism of some cable television, talk radio, and other media outlets on the right.

And add to that, they've delegitimized President Obama, but they've failed to succeed with any of the promises they've made to their rank and file voters, or Tea Party adherents. So when I looked at that, my view was, "what makes you think, after all of these failures, that you're going to have a group of compliant people who are just going to fall in line behind an establishment figure?"

Trump clearly had a brilliant capacity to channel that discontent among Republican voters — to figure out the issues that’ll work, like immigration, and the ways in which populist anger and partisan tribalism can be exploited. So of course, to me, he became a logical contender.
A George Washington University law professor, Orrin Kerr, agrees:
I think the rise of Trump can be partly explained by the politics of delegitimization backfiring. Conservatives and libertarians used the strategy to rally the troops. They made it a standard move, and it became second nature over time. It came to work often in many different contexts. As it relates narrowly to Sebelius [the Obamacare decision], I gather the goal of the Roberts corruption narrative was to establish a common wisdom on the right that the taxing power argument was dishonest and should be overturned someday. For those playing the long game, figuring that some of today’s casual media consumers will become tomorrow’s GOP-appointed Supreme Court Justices, establishing a shared sense on the right that only the joint dissent in Sebelius was legitimate could serve the libertarian end of perhaps making that the law someday.

The politics of delegitimization are hard to cabin once unleashed, however. With the pump primed, the King of Delegitimization Donald Trump capitalized on the dynamic and used it for very different ends with masterful effect. When a large audience is inclined to believe that everyone in government is corrupt, an outsider who excels at the politics of delegitimization can become a powerful political force regardless of his own politics. If everyone in power is corrupt, after all, politics no longer matters. There’s no real difference between a corrupt conservative and a corrupt liberal. Trump made this point himself: “I’m a conservative. But at this point, who cares?”

In a sense, then, Shapiro may be partly right. Public perceptions of what Chief Justice Roberts wrote in Sebelius may have been a contributing factor — one among many, of course, but still a factor — in the Republican party turning to Donald Trump. But that perception was the result of a false narrative designed to delegitimize Roberts’s decision. To the extent public perceptions of Sebelius made any difference, the fault for the rise of Donald Trump does not belong with Chief Justice Roberts. Instead, it belongs with those who tried to delegitimize the Roberts opinion for their own ends and had it backfire on them big-time.
Now the word in the lobbies is that this will be an every-Republican-for-himself election, as the mix of policies that will isolate each candidate from Donald Trump at the top of the ticket will vary widely. Michael Bitzer, a Wingate University politics professor, wrote for WFAE.FM, the Charlotte NPR station, that NC GOP leaders realize:
[B]ase party politics can help achieve an electoral win. If so, their decision may be grounded on appeals to their respective base factions—and a core faction are social/evangelical conservatives.

With the quick response of the special session, the party, especially Republican legislative leaders, sees firming up its conservative credentials as an important function of this base party strategy. North Carolina’s statewide presidential electorates are trending toward battleground status, and that turnout among partisan registered voters is always higher than among unaffiliated registered voters in these types of years. And if the party is telling its candidates to go it alone and separate themselves from a Trump candidacy, the down-ballot emphasis will be key to ensuring that the party bases show up.
The party’s anti-gay efforts not only undermine its pro-business stance but also contradict conservatives’ exaltation of local decision making. The North Carolina law was drafted and passed expressly to undo and override an ordinance in the state’s most populous city, Charlotte, that extended L.G.B.T. protections against discrimination to transgender people who want to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The law went so far as to forbid any municipality from instituting its own anti-discrimination protections, lest they contradict the state’s.

Apparently conservatives love the concept of local control when the locality being given control tilts right, but they have a different view when it leans left. Rural sensibilities must be defended while cosmopolitan ones are dismissed.

North Carolina harbors both. Its tensions are America’s in miniature, and in terms of gay rights, they’re a reminder that the Supreme Court’s ruling last June to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide was hardly the finish of the fight.

That ruling was certain to prompt the kind of backlash now occurring in North Carolina, Georgia and elsewhere, because the steadily growing majority of Americans who favor gay equality is not yet overwhelming, and the climate of acceptance changes greatly from state to state and county to county.

Too many of us L.G.B.T. Americans and our allies were too busy celebrating to stay alert to that. Too few of us acknowledged the tenaciousness of opponents who will resort to whatever they must, including the hallucinated specter of male sexual predators entering women’s restrooms, to sweep aside anti-discrimination laws that include us and to turn public sentiment against us.

They will lose in the end — whether that’s 10, 20 or 30 years from now. Meanwhile they’ll do undeniable harm to the Republican Party nationally and force tough, coalition-straining choices upon it.

They’ll also steal oxygen from matters more central to this country’s continued vitality and prosperity.
Greg Lacour, at Charlotte Magazine, goes further:
My friend and ex-colleague Eric Frazier made an astute point yesterday morning via Twitter: “With #Trump's nomination assured, bet your life you'll see an #hb2 referendum on NC ballot now. #NCGOP needs turnout insurance.” Party leaders may not need it now. Supplemental coverage landed in their laps Wednesday afternoon, underwritten by the U.S. Justice Department.

That’s not to say that state legislators’ motivation for House Bill 2 was entirely electoral. I don’t doubt that some of them actually do believe they’re protecting their women and children from the fanged rapists that congregate, salivating, in public restrooms. But if ever there was a guaranteed Republican base-rallier (and base-uniter), what could top the vision of a General Assembly manning the barricades against the invading hordes of the Obama Justice Department?
What strikes me about my friend’s response is what it says about the party to which we once both belonged. Republicans just don’t care. They don’t have to.
My friend will never be on the receiving end of the work of  a legislature engaging in the sort of breathtaking cynicism his party’s majorities did enacting HB2 (or, to take another example, their 2012 addition of a marriage equality constitutional ban on the spring primary ballot, to ensure its passage; House Speaker Tom Tillis, running for the US Senate, told a Davidson College audience he was sure it would be overturned within twenty years, but politically, it was just too good to pass up. Amendment 1 passed, and was overturned two years later).
I guess my friend believes his gay son will go through life somehow similarly insulated, though I’d have thought the competing concerns politics and parenthood might have been generated by HB2 would have caused a little more passing cognitive dissonance.
His son is family. All the rest of the gays are, apparently, “they” and “them.”
They made bad political choices. They get to live with the consequences.
Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents explains how societies need a “they”- someone to define out of their circle- to help maintain cohesion within it. Based on its policies and candidates and actions, the GOP circle is a small one, getting smaller all the time.
It’s a circle of men, virtually all white, and their women-folk, who are scared by a world that looks and acts less and less like them. They worry, as white people have for centuries, that if the minority becomes a majority, it’ll be payback time for all the things the majority did, and didn’t so, when it was riding high. Having to face, even if only in fevered dreams, the reckoning they know is their due, makes them angry.
The Biblical notion of the End Times, racked by atrocity and tribulation, makes sense from within the GOP circle, which may be why it is such a popular meme in its politicovangelical wing. One might think God would just wrap things up, quickly, efficiently. Sheep here, goats there. Why all the wars and rumors of wars, the streets running hip high in blood?
Because it’s the last stand of the old order, and when old orders see existential defeat ahead, they tend to destroy everything to save themselves. What comes after is something for the victors to sort out. What’s important is to be one of the victors.
Many wonder why there are so many old white guys arguing over the 1960s still, and why we need to get America back to the Fifties and a sense order that was anchored by privilege and race, and backstopped by the police power. It was, after all, possible for the Seattle Police Department to run protection rackets against gay bars well into the 1970s. Charter schools are just a new, tax-funded iteration of private, “Christian” academies that sprang up in the same decade to undo the integration of the schools.
So it’s not nostalgia to many. The past, Faulkner reminded us, a ways back in the past, isn’t the past. It isn’t even over yet. Getting it back is not just nostalgia or bitterness; it’s an achievable goal. Some years ago, “This American Life” profiled an Alabama farmer intent on breeding a particular type of red cow. His goal was to fulfill Biblical prophecy by being able to supply that long-lost sacrificial beast of Israel to a new generation. From those renewed sacrifices would come the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and, as night follows day, the revelation and the ingathering of the righteous.
In the end, what got American politics to where it is today is what always get it to where it is: human nature. “We learn from experience,” Bernard Shaw reminds us, “that no one ever learns anything from experience.” Us and them. Good and evil.
Damon Runyon, the philosopher of the track, wrote, “The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet.” Human nature is to strive to be on the winning side; once there, to pull up the drawbridge.
Republicans have dragged America into the cesspit of 2016 because they really want to be the winners, and, as winners, to make sure they stay there, even if they only rule ruins.
They have been patiently acquiring the tools for decades: building a critical mass of voters around race and class rhetoric, they reached a steady, then growing, range of power.
Sometimes limited- more often, only delayed- by setbacks and courts- they patiently worked to cement alliances with vastly more wealthy patrons happy to toss some coin every election cycle in return for a return to the glory days of the Gilded Age so lovingly championed by Karl Rove as America’s belle epoque.
The money in hand, they turned to rendering the courts supine, and so dismantled the regulation of money in the buying of elections and legislators. A firehose of cash no longer sufficed. Niagara’s endless flow is needed to bring order to a nation as large as America (with an equally Niagara-sized diversion, through hidden pipes and secret groups, into the black money pit of modern elections).
What roils politics today is that, having ridden old resentments of face and class so well for so long, Republicans find they still, at heart, don’t know how to control the tiger they bred, nourished and rode for so long. Now, hungry and irritable, and for reasons it cannot articulate, it turns its eyes to its masters.
There is another theory, one to delight the shade of William of Occam for its simplity. It was posted by New York Magazine columnist Jonathan Chait:
Most voters don’t follow politics and policy for a living, and it’s understandable that they would often fall for arguments based on faulty numbers or a misreading of history. But a figure like Trump is of a completely different cast than the usual political slickster. He is several orders of magnitude more clownish and uninformed than the dumbest major-party nominee I’ve ever seen before. (That would be George W. Bush.) As low as my estimation of the intelligence of the Republican electorate may be, I did not think enough of them would be dumb enough to buy his act. And, yes, I do believe that to watch Donald Trump and see a qualified and plausible president, you probably have some kind of mental shortcoming. As many fellow Republicans have pointed out, Donald Trump is a con man. What I failed to realize — and, I believe, what so many others failed to realize, though they have reasons not to say so — is just how easily so many Republicans are duped.
Tomorrow: #ThanksObama

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