The Defense of Religion bill has gone viral. As with most things disseminated by the media, the real facts have been obscured by a media pushing a partisan agenda, and a readership that can’t put two brain cells together (I am mostly describing the Huffington Post here).
First, the bill is a resolution and does not carry the force of law. If passed (and it won’t) the bill will simply express the feelings of the General Assembly that the 14th Amendment does not apply to the states. This principle of incorporation has been around for well over a century, so the bill itself is blatantly unconstitutional and pretty much on the fringe.
Naturally, this was picked up by the media, even though hundreds of bills are filed each session, many of them frivolous and without a chance of passing. Afterward, it went viral on social media. Since many young people believe that religion is the root of all evil in the world, you can imagine their reaction to the idea of a state declaring its own religion.
What’s the point of this bill? Basically, it’s a symbolic “screw you” to the ACLU. I’m not a big fan of resolutions. “Expressing the will of the General Assembly that puppies are great!” “Yea!” Who cares? Personally, I would rather have a bill that actually screws the ACLU instead of just doing it symbolically.
Despite the overblown coverage on this bill, conservatives should understand that these news reports aren’t helpful to their cause. They should remember that voters are stupid and never, ever overestimate their intelligence. This happened last year with the whole “War on Women” thing. Republicans thought, this is so stupid, no one will believe it. They were wrong. In most cases, the facts are irrelevant, and the simplest explanation is best.
The NC GOP is doing enough controversial things already, they don’t need more distractions. It’s also a really bad idea to propose controversial legislation and then not act on it. You get none of the benefits of the bill but you get everyone mad at you at the same time. The media goes through three phases when it comes to legislation from state Republicans: 1) reports on the proposed legislation, 2) reports on the deliberations of the proposed legislation, and 3) reports when the legislation is finally passed. Each report is an attack piece on Republicans. If there’s something controversial that Republicans want to do, they’d better pass it and reap the benefits, because they’re going to face outrage either way.
A good example is the pink stripe for illegal immigrants. Even though this was pushed by the DMV, the same lesson applies. A story comes out on the pink stripe. A very small minority say that Republicans are Nazis and they want to put Hispanics in concentration camps. Finally, this very vocal group gets their way and the proposed pink stripe is withdrawn. But afterward, no one comes out and thanks Tata and co. for their acquiescence. There are no laudatory columns from the N&O. The liberal activists walk away and plot for their next battle.
If Republicans are going through Hell, they better take Winston Churchill’s advice, keep going and at least get their agenda passed instead of kowtowing to liberal elements and getting branded as demi-Hitlers anyway.
This bill, however, stands no chance of passing. The party leadership has (finally) made it clear. But they should have been on this a lot earlier, as soon as the story appeared. And next time, maybe the House caucus should make sure that all of its members see eye-to-eye on the important issues facing the state, and the image they need to convey to the voters.
John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.