Predictably, our more prominent Republican figures shot from the hip in demanding that Gov. Jan Brewer (AZ) veto the supposed "anti-gay" bill (SB 1062).
Governor Brewer vetoed the hyped-up Senate bill, stating that there were no present threats to religious liberty or discrimination lawsuits in her state that would warrant such legislation, as well as asserting the notion that the bill would "divide" Arizonans in many ways, and would have negative unintended consequences.
Opportunity crumpled to the floor before the podium yesterday, gunned down by irresponsible interjections, from the established Right as much as the Left.
But before we can connect the dots in this travesty, we need to take a look at the crime scene and the character of its victim, SB 1062.
Michael Medved, whom I consider an intelligent resource for information and perspective on policy issues, critiqued the legalese of the bill with his usual precision and flaming passion against Idiocy. His reason being, the law doesn't really do anything.
And he's right. For all of you who have been misinformed by the media (the Alphabet networks and Fox News alike), SB 1062 essentially is just another tool for business owners to defend themselves in court against discrimination lawsuits OR other lawsuits that would place "an undue burden" on the individual's sincerely held religious beliefs. When you cut through the technical language, the intent of the bill is to specifically state that an individuals has the right to cite sincere religious convictions as a reason for the action (or non-action) that landed them in the hot seat of a court of law.
Note that there is no specific "anti-gay" language here--in fact, the bill doesn't even mention sexual orientation. This bill simply enshrines the 1st Amendment rights for business owners.
Never mind the fact that sexual orientation is not even a protected class in Arizona; a cake shop can actually turn down service to an engaged gay couple and cite a religious conviction for the refusal and not be found guilty of anything in the eyes of the law (or at least that's what the law says on paper).
The real question the media should have been asking when the bill first hit the state Senate floor was, given current Arizona law, why was this bill proposed?
Unfortunately it's too late for that question to really inform public opinion. The public's mental space is already jam-packed with gay discrimination rhetoric and utterly misleading claims about the function of this legislation.
So what was the right question, specifically for Republicans, to ask amid the irrepressible controversy? Almost everyone who gives a tweet about politics can agree that Republicans... they're not so good at strategy. Or politics in general.
With this specific bill, McCain, Romney, and the like were completely blind to the opportunity Jan Brewer had here. Why? Because they thought this was about policy, not politics.
This was never about policy, as Medved seemed to perceive it. This was politics--pure and simple. It was about making a politically charged statement, on both sides, by way of a legally neutral bill.
In fact, it doesn't even matter if the bill was initially intended to be a statement, because through the predictable media hype, it inevitably became one. Like gold, legislation, however useless, derives its value from public opinion.
This bill had a high political value. It became a prime opportunity for Republicans to do basically what the left does in order to get their way--scream and stamp their feet and turn miniscule, obscure stories into massive hyper-narratives too heavy and bloated to push out off the public stage...even if urgent matters of state stand hidden behind its largess.
The difference is that this controversy could have been used to stand in defense of our most basic American liberty: to practice and express our faiths openly, unapologetically, and without reproach.
Instead of turning this whole controversy into a win for conservatives through making a strong pro-liberty post-signing statement, Jan Brewer caved to relatively mild political and economic* pressures.
Again, it didn't matter what was in the bill. The only thing that mattered was what people said about it, especially Governor Brewer.
McCain and Romney's bullets injured Opportunity, but Brewer put a round right in the chest.
*Do you really think that if the bill had been signed, that the NFL would have withdrawn the Super Bowl from Arizona? Or that the airlines would have boycotted the state, losing millions of dollars on ticket sales? Seriously?