A massive political tectonic plate shift

A massive political tectonic plate shift

It has been a rough couple of weeks to be a conservative Republican in America.  As I sit here writing this my thoughts drift back to what happened in Gettysburg, PA 152 years ago this very afternoon.  Members of the GOP, especially the Evangelical wing of the party, must feel like Confederate survivors of  Pickett’s Charge.  As one rebel Gettysburg veteran so eloquently put it in later years, “The only thing we gained that day was glory.”  The truth is this week the conservatives lost nothing in terms of rights under the law.  A whole lot of other people won much but not more.  That said, to be on the wrong end of such a resounding defeat on so many points of ideology is a painful thing.  However, not all of the damage to the Conservative cause was done by any supreme court.  A fair amount was self-inflicted through deliberate inaction.  A plum opportunity for any aspiring GOP Presidential candidate was blown  when nobody uttered a peep about the Confederate battle flag still flying on the grounds of the South Carolina State Capitol until enough people complained about it.  Even then the effort to make it a little less “in-your-face” by Governor Haley initially appeared  wrought with reluctance.  I would dare say that if after the terrorist shooting in Charleston, had a Jeb Bush or a Marco Rubio or even a Donald Trump stepped up and acknowledged its repugnant symbolism and proclaimed it to not be what America or the Republican brand is about in 2015 we may have seen a frontrunner emerge.  At very least we would have seen a candidate who could be taken seriously.  Well,   maybe next time.

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6 to 3 decision in favor of nationwide health care subsidies thereby upholding President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  It did not help the conservative cause that nobody in the movement has put forth a genuinely viable alternative to the ACA despite some nearly 60 legislative attempts by the House to repeal it.  The upside is at least it will not be a millstone around the GOP’s neck in 2016, unless of course they insist on wearing a granite life vest in continuing to push its repeal.

By far the most upsetting decision handed down by the conservative majority Supreme Court was the one last Friday effectively legalizing same sex marriage.  In a 5 to 4 decision, the high court ruled in favor of the plaintiff in the Obergefell v Hodges case.  I could actually feel the political tectonic plates of the nation shift under my feet when this news broke.  This issue has been a major bone of contention in the Culture Wars and in no uncertain terms one on which the Conservative movement has lost.  As one of the parties to an Oklahoma case effected by this decision stated, “This has never been about having more than anyone else.  It has been about getting to have as much as anyone  else.”  It appears the court reflects public opinion on the issue.

Earlier this week the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in the Arizona State Legislature v Arizona Independent Redistricting CommissionIn a 5 to 4 ruling, the high court stated the Constitution does not give legislatures exclusive control over Congressional redistricting and voters may vest the power in independent commissions via ballot initiative where the option exists.  Yes, one of the benefits of a legislative majority is getting to redraw your district lines.  If enough people agree however, an independent commission is now a legal option.

Closer to home, along this the most conservative stretch of Old Route 66, the Oklahoma Supreme Court in a 7 to 2 ruling struck down the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the State Capitol.  It is a decision that likely will stand.  The ruling reflects the clearly stated wording of Article II, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution:

“No public money or property shall ever be appropriated,
applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use,
benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system
of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest,
preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or
sectarian institution as such.”

This of course was not to the liking of several members of the conservative majority in the state legislature.  Judicial decisions can be a funny thing.  When they support your ideology they are viewed as good jurisprudence.  When they run counter to your ideology, the justices who issued the ruling are said to be legislating from the bench.  Those legislators who take a dim view of this decision may go as far as seeking to impeach the justices with whom they disagree.  To those disappointed by the decision I say I understand how bad it sucks to not get your way.  However, please be careful how far you lower the bar in order to attempt to reverse the ruling.  In other words, don’t do anything to the justices you would not want done to you.  I myself am quite pleased because this reaffirms the presence of the Wall of Separation of Church and State that was the intention of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment:  “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

The Ten Commandments are outdated and regardless of the historical   significance  they may embody, I would hope they would never be used as a guideline for governance.  Honestly, if “Thou shalt not covet” is ever used to guide legislation or judicial decision making, American free enterprise will collapse!  The late George Carlin explained it better than anyone:

George Carlin on the Ten Commandments

I just wish George could have bequeathed some of his common sense reasoning to the people in charge.  Still, this has been a very historic couple of weeks.  It is certainly a new day in America!

The Ten Commandments monument (photo by Wikimedia)

The Ten Commandments monument (photo by Wikimedia)

1 Comment

  1. Carl Alexander
    Jul 3, 2015

    ‘Political tectonic plates’, indeed! Civil rights and Religious rights all moved strongly to the Left… and if you don’t think Same-Sex Marriage was about religion, you haven’t been paying attention!
    Because the US Constitution endorses both a right to HAVE a religion and/or NOT HAVE a religion, as well as to be married or not be married… and the ramifications of the shift that has just taken place will take years to fully unfold.
    For one thing, Christianity is going to have to adapt itself to these changes, and not just in the legal sense but in a moral way as well.
    For while Gay Marriage may never become synonymous with Church Weddings, more and more gay people are undoubtedly going to begin asking themselves questions like “Does God really hate gay people?” and “Where is a Christian church that will accept me just as I am?” and “What does being a ‘christian’ really mean?”
    In the past, segregation of churches along racial and ethnic lines has largely been the resultant answer for Christianity in dealing with segments of the population who differ in some significant way from the ‘mainstream’… but gay people aren’t necessarily Black or Hispanic or of any specific ethnic origin.
    Whatever they may look like, they are our mothers & fathers, sons & daughters, aunts & uncles, and nephews & nieces – and unless Christian churches intend to go on fostering the historic bigotry against LGBT people that has thus-far been their norm,
    radical religious change is bound to take place in the coming years.
    Because when one tectonic plate is shifted, the whole world is forced to move…