It’s that time in the legislature when crazy is in high gear. A bill filed yesterday would allow for a state religion and exempt North Carolina from rulings of federal courts. It won’t pass and probably will never make it to a committee hearing, but it lays bare the thinking of some of our legislators.
Other bills of this nature include one introduced last session that would create a state currency. Additional measures, like allowing concealed weapons in schools, would have seemed crazy just a few years ago, but are now taken seriously by mainstream Republicans.
When Democrats were in power, they introduced bills that Republicans thought were crazy, like expanding discrimination to cover gays and lesbians, repealing the death penalty and a number of animal rights provisions. The difference in the Democrats’ and Republicans’ bills is that Democrats’ measures were usually trying to protect the rights of minorities against a possible or perceived tyranny of the majority. Republicans’ bills are predominantly borne of paranoia–the fear that some religion other than Christianity is going to take over their community or that Newtown or Aurora shooters are lurking around every corner.
Most of the crazy Republican bills come from rural legislators whose real fear is that they are losing a way of life. Manufacturing and agriculture can no longer sustain their economies, their populations are aging and shrinking and their brightest young people are leaving for places that offer more opportunity. Instead of confronting the forces of change, they’re finding bugaboos like an oppressive federal government, Islam and mass shooters.
In the 2008 Democratic primary, Barack Obama got in trouble when he said that people in small towns and rural areas who are suffering from long-term unemployment and cultural depletion “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” His statement was called a gaffe, proving the old saying that a gaffe is when a politician tells a truth that he is not supposed to say out loud.