Friday, May 8, 2015

Once More Into The Buzzsaw: Minnesota Republicans, The Zeitgeist & Social Issues

Yesterday a group of Minnesota Republican Senators introduced legislation that would grant a limited number of businesses an exemption from providing wedding services to same sex couples on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs.

Where, I thought to myself, have they been these last several months? And what, precisely, precipitated the need for introducing this kind of legislation and with only a couple of weeks remaining in the session? Republicans aid in their own marginalization in Minnesota by their ham handed, wholly incompetent handling and addressing of social issues. We've all seen this movie.

What, then, could be the explanation? According to the reporting of David Montgomery in the Pioneer Press, lead author of the bill Sen. Paul Gazelka said "a family in his district was fined for refusing to host a same-sex wedding on their property."

The usual suspects weighed in and were quoted in Montgomery's piece. His typically thorough reporting can be read here. Outfront Minnesota was polite but firmly against the bill. Why on earth would they be for it, in any shape? I confess to being amused that the Minnesota Family Council thought the bill granted too many "concessions" but were supporting it. The effort looked futile on its face: zero support from the left and wholesale reservations on the right. These senators appear to have no innate talent for politics.

And politics is what this is. Cue the media responses, which cast the measure in terms of anti-this and anti-that, not religious freedom or freedom of conscience. This is to be expected, of course, except early on I saw no indication that supporters of this out-of-nowhere bill understood it.

Javier Morillo was quick to cast this in the most extreme language: "When did gay hating bakers become a thing?" This is of a piece with the professional left and its routine demonization of anything with which it disagrees. A disagreeable tactic? In my view yes but too often quite effective. Conservatives need to do better to neutralize the over the top rhetoric--mockery is deadly to the deadly serious left--but this is precisely the sort of reaction one should have expected and been prepared to push back against. You can read Morillo's piece by clicking here.

Sally Jo Sorensen, writing at Bluestem Prairie, sees a wedge issue for exploitation by republicans in rural Minnesota in the 2016 election, with a focus on the bad guys capturing the Minnesota Senate. This was the first thought that crossed my mind as well but I'm not as confident in the red team's ability to pull this off as she appears to be. Then again, there seems to be little else, at least on the surface, and at least this early, to justify this development. Her post can be read by clicking here. 

Doug Grow, writing at MinnPost, notes accurately that "[t]here also appears to be no support from anyone the [sic] GOP’s leadership in the Senate or the House to take on this issue this year — or ever." His post can be read here. Gazelka even borrows the repulsive language of overgrown, petulant children known as college students and talks idiotically about "a public conversation that leads to a safe place so both sides can live their lives as they please.’’

Oh please. The last thing we need to do is incorporate language from the regions of cultural decay in order to advance thoughtless legislation the mere proposal of which is likely to harm republicans in Minnesota.

And that's the point: social issues, to the extent that they exist, needs must be handled adroitly and with finesse. Not even the most charitable observer of Minnesota republican acumen in this regard would give them a passing grade as of the last few years. Bringing up a topic that has divided the country lately, and with some nasty discourse primarily on the left, offers no benefits to a party that still can't think its way through a compelling message sufficient for Minnesotans to elect them to a single statewide office.