In an essay charting this year’s “God, guns and gays” legislative sessions, as occurring down yonder in the defeated Confederacy, during which reactionary laws were enthusiastically embraced, only to illicit backlash from the very business and economic engines sustaining local economies, we’re unfortunately reminded that when it comes to geography, the Mason-Dixon line has a weird curvature near the shores of Lake Michigan.
“Following a pattern established last year in Indiana.”
Jeeebus, that hurts.
Southern Republicans: Going rogue (The Economist)
Republicans in the southern statehouses are angry—fundamentally, perhaps, about the waning of the values they are fighting for.
… On the face of it, much of this seems odd. Judging by the rhetoric of the Republican presidential contest, the country is going to the dogs; in parts of the South, the infrastructure is indeed crumbling. Yet the region’s politicians are concentrating on problems that, to put it mildly, are often less than pressing. Florida passed a law stopping clergy from being dragooned into conducting same-sex marriages, a threat already neutralised by America’s constitution. Predatory men infiltrating women’s toilets, the spectre raised in North Carolina and elsewhere, is a similarly apocryphal fear. Remarkably some southern governors have elevated such concerns above job-creation. Many in Georgia think Mr Deal should have followed suit: predicting that “religious liberty” will haunt next year’s session, too, Josh McKoon, a disappointed state senator, says that while “prosperity is an important value, so is individual freedom”.
What explains this eccentric turn? It is a reaction, most obviously, to last year’s Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, of the kind that often follows dramatic social change. Melton McLaurin, a historian at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, notes that this particular “rearguard action” resembles opposition to racial desegregation in emphasising the supposed endangerment of women and children. But many southern Republicans feel beleaguered by more than one ruling: they see Washington as at once insidiously liberal and hopelessly gridlocked. Religious-liberty bills and the like offer the consolation of decisive action (even if some are destined to be struck down), of a sort that, unlike new roads and bridges, requires no tax dollars …
… Tension between urban liberals and their more conservative environs is an old story, given extra piquancy by the migration to some southern cities of sophisticated types from elsewhere in the country. Yet the role of demography in the South’s political convulsions runs deeper. As well as exemplifying the frictions between different levels of government and different strands of Republicanism (business-minded and religious), these flashpoints also illuminate a bigger clash: between the past and the future.