Alliteration aside, the goings on in Indiana over the past couple of weeks has far more important implications on the future of the Republican party than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, I hate discrimination as much as the next person, but we all know this law isn’t going to stand the test of time. These laws never do. For those living under a rock, the Indians legislature passed a law allowing businesses to deny service to individuals on religious grounds. In other words, if you are gay in Indiana, I don’t have to serve you if it offends my delicate sensibilities. Let’s try to ignore the obvious for the time being and skip straight to the political implications.
Someone once said that politics makes strange bedfellows. Certainly, the Democratic party has its own strained relationships within the party. You pit organized labor against recent immigrants and watch the fireworks fly. In the case of the Republicans, you pit religious conservatives against the business community. Mind you, these conflicts don’t happen all the time. Most of the time they remain independent and thus they can remain together under the same tent and vote together as one big happy family. Then, Indiana happened.
What does discrimination have to do with business? Well, homosexuals spend money too. At least, that’s the rumor. Major corporations are having a hard time reconciling the desire to side with their fundamentalist Christian audience and the desire to maximize income. Organizations like the NFL and NCAA have already indicated they would not bring events to Indianapolis as long as this law is on the books as is. Those organizations help the city generate millions of tourism dollars for these events. When the business community stands to lose money they understandably get upset. When they get upset they stop donating money to the campaign.
On the flip side, the so-called Conservative revolution owes its success to the surge of religious fundamentalist voters. They used to stay home on election day. Ronald Reagan helped coax them out of hiding and they’ve become a political force. So, imagine you are presidential hopeful: do you stand by the law and anger the business community or stand by the business community and anger religious community? The answer now seems to be neither. How long is this going to last?
In fact, how long can the whole Republican coalition last? They don’t have African Americans or other minority groups on their side. They don’t have women on their side for the most part. A majority of young people are against them. They are the party of old white men. Some of those white men are frothing at the mouth over gay people (another group they don’t have). Some are frothing at the mouth over taxes. If one of those groups decides to stay home they are done. It’s easy to forecast the death of the Republican party as we know it, but we must embrace the implications. As much as progressives would love this to be true, conservatives are not going away and I dare say they shouldn’t. History shows that when one party is in control, bad things tend to happen. Conservatives will reorganize themselves somehow. It remains to be seen how.