There used to be a time in the American political landscape when Republicans could forcefully articulate their policy positions to sway public opinion. In the Obama era, facts have given way to spin and message discipline—two areas in which the GOP appears to run upfield into the political headwinds while Democrats always appear to be running downfield and on the attack.
Consider the storm surrounding the Indiana governor and the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act he signed last week. To listen to congressional Democrats and the mainstream news media, one would think that not only has Jim Crow returned, but people are being now being overtly discriminated against based on their sexual orientation.
Mike Pence was merely following in the footsteps of congressional action more than 20 years ago, after the Supreme Court held in Employment Division v. Smith that two Native Americans’ exercise of religious rights were not violated by a Oregon state law that prohibited the ingestion of peyote for religious ceremonies. In the wake of that decision, Congress stepped in to provide a uniform standard regarding government interference in the free exercise of religion, which President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993.
At the signing ceremony extolling the virtue of the bill, Clinton offered: “What this law basically says is that the government should be held to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion. This judgment is shared by the people of the United States as well as by the Congress. We believe strongly that we can never, we can never be too vigilant in this work.”
And yet, to listen to the echo chambers today, you would think that Republicans have declared war on the LGBT community, when nothing of the sort has occurred. How did this happen? Quite simply, Democrats know how to manipulate both the press and get the desired political spin to constantly keep Republicans on the defensive while looking guilty.
Consider the following: Just a few short years ago, President Barack Obama changed his stance on the right of same-sex couples to marry legally while mainlining his stance as Mr. Do-Good Liberal Hope and Change Leader. In 2008, candidate Obama said: “I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage,” while in 2012 he “evolved” to: “I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” That Obama’s decision appeared to be politically motivated in the midst of a re-election campaign was overlooked—his was the position favored by the politically correct set, and his past sin for supporting marriage as the union between a man and a woman was ignored.
Fast-forward to the present day. In a private bill-signing ceremony, several supporters of Governor Pence’s who strongly define marriage as between a man and a woman surrounded him as he put his signature on the new law. All of a sudden—instant crisis and scandal: Republicans are bigots and against the LGBT community. Based on no facts, no evidence, nothing other than Democrat opponents asserting this as the truth. And Republicans largely cowered in response.
Pence did himself no favors when he appeared on This Week with George Stephanopoulos to defend himself from charges of bigotry. In the relevant section from the interview, Stephanopoulos asks, “Do you think it should be legal in the State of Indiana to discriminate against gays or lesbians?” Rather than unequivocally answer no, Pence mumbled through an answer in which he said: “George—you’re following the mantra of the last week on line [media coverage] and I think you’re trying to make this issue about something else.” Pence’s long-shot thoughts of running for president next year have now officially been extinguished in the political fallout created and promoted by Democrats and their media enablers looking for discriminatory intent where none existed.
The hypocrisy of Democratic officials is patently offensive when it comes to RFRA. Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy sent not one but two tweets out patting himself on the back for signing an executive order banning state-sponsored travel to Indiana because of their “discriminatory practices” in passing a RFRA statute (the ban was lifted after Indiana adjusted its law). Did the media bother to inform the public that Connecticut has an almost identical law on the books as Indiana’s recently passed law? No, of course not. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones: Why is it fine for Connecticut to have a RFRA statute in place while the governor calls for a boycott of Indiana for passing a nearly identical measure?
News flash to Republicans: Get your act together and know how to navigate potentially treacherous political waters. If Democrats and the media want to paint us as bigots, instead let’s go on the offensive and clearly articulate why supporting the free exercise of religion has nothing to do with gay marriage. It is nearly impossible to win on the political gridiron when Democrats are running downfield with the wind at their back while Republicans labor upfield with the wind in our faces. Time to change the weather—time to confront lies with facts head-on.