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“The Antithesis Of Religious Liberty”: Why The GOP Has The First Amendment Upside Down

One entertaining aspect of recent dramatic Supreme Court rulings was learning that the court’s high-minded intellectuals can be just as thin skinned and spiteful as everybody else. Apparently, Justice Antonin Scalia was a law-school whiz kid about 50 years and 50,000 cocktails ago, and finds it hard to accept that lesser minds are not obliged to agree with him.

For his part, Chief Justice John Roberts turned political prognosticator in his dissent to Obergefell v. Hodges, the decision legitimizing gay marriage. “Stealing this issue from the people,” he wrote, “will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”

Granted, if all you had to go by was the sky-is-falling rhetoric of Republican presidential candidates and their theological allies, you might think that Roberts had a point. But he doesn’t, partly because the Supreme Court ruling won’t bring about dramatic social change at all. It merely affirms social changes that have already happened.

But hold that thought, because political handicappers at the New York Times argue that same-sex unions could be the best thing that ever happened to the GOP. Not because millions of outraged religious conservatives will stampede to the ballot boxes, but because… well, here’s the headline: “As Left Wins Culture Battles, GOP Gains Opportunity to Pivot for 2016.”

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum believes that the gay marriage fight is over. “Every once in a while,” he told reporter Jonathan Martin, “we bring down the curtain on the politics of a prior era. The stage is now cleared for the next generation of issues. And Republicans can say, ‘Whether you’re gay, black, or a recent migrant to our country, we are going to welcome you as a fully cherished member of our coalition.’”

Sure, Republicans could say that. If Republicans were in the habit of dealing with reality, that is. Frum, a Canadian Jew who became a U.S. citizen in 2007, may be forgiven a bit of wishful thinking. Ever since getting pushed out of the American Enterprise Institute for saying Republicans were foolish not to negotiate with the White House on Obamacare, he’s been trying to persuade Republicans to act more like British Tories.

But that’s not how today’s GOP rolls. On the party’s evangelical right, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee was breathing smoke and fire. A Baptist preacher, Huckabee indulged in a bit of ecclesiastical word play, denying that the Supreme Court could do “something only the Supreme Being can do — redefine marriage.” He denounced the ruling as a “blow to religious liberty, which is the heart of the First Amendment,” and vowed to defy it.

In this, Huckabee echoed Rev. Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who even before the Supreme Court ruling had vowed that “as a minister of the Gospel, I will not officiate over any same-sex unions or same-sex marriage ceremonies. I completely refuse.”

Isn’t that brave of him?

However, do you really suppose it’s possible that Floyd, Huckabee, and the rest of the hyperventilating GOP candidates fail to understand that all churches have an absolute First Amendment right to their own beliefs and practices? They’re bravely refusing to perform ceremonies that nothing in this nor any imaginable Supreme Court decision would require of them.

If your church refuses to sanctify same-sex marriages (as mine certainly does), that’s its unquestioned right. For that matter, the Catholic Church also refuses to marry previously divorced couples, or even admit them to communion — an absurdity to me, but not a political issue.

Nothing in the Supreme Court ruling changes those things. It’s about marriage as a secular legal institution: two Americans entering into a contract with each other. Period.

That’s why Bloomberg View‘s Jonathan Bernstein is right and Justice Roberts is wrong about same-sex marriage causing long-lasting social resentment. Marriage, he writes, is “a done deal,” and the issue will soon be relegated to “history books alongside questions of whether women should vote or alcohol should be prohibited.”

Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 decision invalidating miscegenation laws, was accepted almost immediately. Bernstein points out that in states such as Massachusetts and Iowa, where same-sex unions have been legal for years, they’re no longer controversial.

Because it’s really none of your business, is it, who loves whom? And it has zero effect on you personally. So grow up and get over it.

In time, as Bernstein says, most people will.

In the near term, however, millions of aggrieved GOP voters appear to have gotten the First Amendment upside down. They won’t easily be dissuaded. Feeling besieged by the mainstream culture, they’re encouraged by the Huckabees, Cruzes, and Santorums of the world to believe that they’re being persecuted because they can’t make everybody else march to their drumbeat.

The Republicans’ problem is that to most Americans, that’s the antithesis of religious liberty, and a surefire political loser.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, July 1, 2015

July 2, 2015 Posted by | 1st Amendment, GOP, Religious Liberty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mike Huckabee Is Prepared To Blow Up Republicans’ Big Ruse”: Pulling Back The Curtain On The Party’s Double Dealing

By the time the sixth or seventh candidate enters a Republican presidential primary, it’s usually tough to identify a unique quality that distinguishes him from those who came before. Most of the predictable niches—the Establishment candidate, the Religious Right candidate, the Conservative Absolutist candidate, the non-white/non-male outreach/token candidates, the outsider candidate, etc.—have already been filled.

With that pattern in mind, you might imagine Mike Huckabee missed his moment. At the time of his announcement last week, the GOP race already included a Religious Right tribune (Ted Cruz), an Evangelical Christian (Scott Walker), a fair-weather libertarian (Rand Paul), an outreacher (Marco Rubio), an outsider (Ben Carson), and a woman (Carly Fiorina). And in a purely electoral sense, Huckabee did miss his moment.

Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister, had a better opportunity to consolidate the religious conservative vote against the donor candidate in 2008 than he does now, and even then he came up short. Eight years ago, as Nate Cohn wrote recently at the New York Times, “religious conservatives had serious reservations about the two main candidates, John McCain and Mitt Romney.” This year things are different.

But this isn’t just a simple story about a hopeless underdog deluding himself about his odds, or a retread of so many GOP primaries where too many conservatives vie for the right wing vote and clear a path for the money guy.

Huckabee appears to be aware of his liabilities, and is thus angling not only for the evangelical vote, but for the old person vote in general. He’s adopted the view, unfathomable in modern Republican politics, that support programs for the elderly shouldn’t be tampered with, and not just for today’s seniors, but for at least a generation. By doing so he’s violated the GOP’s implicit pact that discourages members from accentuating the tensions between the party’s fiscal priorities and its aging political base. If he makes good on this cynical strategy, he will probably still lose, but his candidacy will have served a valuable and revealing purpose.

Let’s be clear up front that Huckabee’s positioning here is 100 percent cynical. As John McCormack of the neoconservative Weekly Standard reminded us last month, Huckabee was a proponent of the Republican consensus as recently as August 2012, when he wrote on his Facebook page that “Paul Ryan is being demonized for his suggested Medicare reforms. But the alternatives may be scarier.”

Today, Huckabee says he wouldn’t sign legislation codifying Ryan’s Medicare reforms if he were president, and lambasted New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s proposal to further raise the Social Security retirement age over time. In Iowa this week, Huckabee told a crowd of supporters, “It is a foolish thing for the government to involuntarily confiscate money from your pockets and paychecks for 50 years, and then suddenly tell you, oh, we were just kidding.”

What he didn’t mention is that his proposed “Fair Tax”—a hefty tax on consumption—would disproportionately increase costs for fixed-income seniors, who spend most of their money, and thus operate in effect much like a Social Security benefit cut.

But for political purposes, it doesn’t really matter that Huckabee isn’t acting out of compassion for the elderly or the poor. What matters is that he’s motivated enough to pull back the curtain on the party’s double dealing.

For the entirety of Barack Obama’s presidency, Republicans have taken an awkward, cynical, schizophrenic view of entitlements. They have voted with near unanimity for a budget that would radically overhaul Medicare, but have promised (unworkably) to isolate the old and nearly old from any disruptions. They have largely sidelined their preferred Social Security reforms, but salivated over the prospect of voting for a cut to Social Security benefits when they thought Obama might sign it. They have railed against the Affordable Care Act for reducing spending on Medicare while voting for budgets that preserve those very cuts.

The only way to make sense of this mishmash is to remember that the GOP owes its political livelihood to the elderly. To pursue conservative goals, without obliterating their coalition, Republicans must twist themselves into pretzels. They must detest spending, but only on those other people. Their rhetorical commitments are impossible to square with their ideological and substantive ones, though, and the agenda they’ve promised to pursue when they control the government again would not exempt retirees and near retirees in any meaningful way. At the end of the day they can only keep their promises to one interest group, and it’s not going to be the elderly.

In effect, Huckabee is promising to lay this all out for Republican primary (i.e. older) voters, and place his rivals in the exquisitely awkward position of having to explain themselves. Normally the way things work in Republican primaries is that candidates seek advantage by drawing attention to their opponents’ insufficient commitment to conservatism. Huckabee’s big bet is that—in this one substantive realm, where conservatism and voter self-interest point in opposite directions—he can do the same by running to the left. Watching him test this theory, even in defeat, will be fascinating.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, May 11, 2015

May 12, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Mike Huckabee, Republican Voters | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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