I guess that political activist Eric Miller's claim the Republican legislative leadership planned a "sneak attack" on Organization Day, i.e. the passage of a bill to protect LGBT rights, was an exaggeration more than a fabrication.
This column is not about the merits of the detailed bill that attempts to forge a compromise. It rather
|Senate President Pro Tem David Long|
I know exactly what the political thinking is behind the compromise civil rights bill. GOP strategists believe that by passing the measure in 2016 the Republicans will take the contentious issue off the table and the legislators and Governor Pence can run for re-election without dealing with the matter. The strategy represents an extremely unsophisticated understanding of how the political game is played and will undoubtedly doom Pence's re-election efforts and cause Republicans to lose seats in the legislature.
The first rule of political strategy is that you never ever alienate your base. You can irritate your base supporters, but if you alienate them you are finished. By Republicans cowering and doing the "fix" to the RFRA last session (which I have argued didn't actually do anything), Governor Pence and the Republican leadership irritated their evangelical base. But they were willing to forgive. Now with the GOP legislative leadership going further and supporting a compromise civil rights bill the Republican leaders are making the fatal mistake of alienating their critical base of supporters.
But what about the details of the compromise? They simply do not matter. The two page RFRA got horribly misconstrued by media and political activists who were too lazy to read the bill or simply had a political agenda that required being dishonest about the law. Why in the world do Senate leaders believe that won't happen with this new bill that covers some 20 or so pages?
Bottom line, conservatives will attack the bill as going too far and not protecting religious freedom sufficiently. Liberals will oppose the bill as not going far enough. Further, there is no reason for Democrats to compromise as they believe they have Republicans on the run on the issue. And since the Republicans are actually running from the issue of religious freedom, can you blame Democrats for thinking they have a winning political issue?
By trying to please everyone, the Senate Republican leaders' compromise civil rights bill will please no one. And it will drive a wedge between the GOP establishment and critical evangelical support. Pence's re-election is doomed if he signs any version of that bill.
A more sophisticated and successful political strategy would be for Indiana Republicans to say they are proud to support religious freedom and publicly demand that the Democratic Party and their candidates do the same. By instead pursuing this compromise strategy the Republicans are sending the message to the voters that they did something wrong by supporting religious freedom last year and are trying to beg the electorate forgive the party for its transgressions.
There is a word that describes the Indiana Senate Republican leaders' strategy on the compromise civil rights bill: Disastrous.