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Friday, April 03, 2015


Everybody's wise to Eddie except Eddie

by Tom Sullivan

For those growing up in the 1960s, Eddie Haskell from the sitcom "Leave It to Beaver" was our archetype for the conniving, two-faced schemer. Superficially polite — over-polite — when parents were present, he dropped the facade and became his true, devious self whenever the adults left the room. IIRC, at the end of one episode, Eddie gets his comeuppance. As he is led away, he is still working his Mr. Innocent routine, mystified that it seems not to be sparing him punishment. Wally Cleaver turns to his little brother and observes, "Everybody's wise to Eddie except Eddie."

It's not a new observation that conservative politics often exhibits the same public/private, two-faced quality. This week's sideshow in Indiana over its Religious Freedom Restoration Act bought Eddie to mind again. Protestations that the bill meant to protect religious practice rather than license discrimination were just as transparent.

In the sitcom, Ward and June Cleaver always play along with Eddie's innocent act, never confronting him about being a fraud, and tacitly encouraging him to keep lying. In real life, don't our Wards and Junes of the press do the same?

A radio newscast last night reported that RFRA supporters in Indiana complained that the changes made to the law yesterday under national pressure had stripped the law of its religious protections. That is, the right of business owners to use their religious belief to discriminate against customers.

Gov. Mike Pence's public efforts over the weekend to deny it were damned near comedic, even as more privately, RFRA supporters revealed their true intentions:

But even this week, as Pence called for a fix to clarify that "this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone," conservative groups stuck to the message of same-sex marriage opposition to rally supporters.

A website post Monday by Advance America, led by Eric Miller, sought to set the record straight on "misinformation" about the law by listing purported examples of how Indiana's RFRA could be used.

"Christian bakers, florists and photographers should not be forced by the government to participate in a homosexual wedding," the post said. "Pastors should not be forced by the government to conduct a homosexual wedding at the church." And Wednesday, as lawmakers hashed out language to expressly prohibit using RFRA to discriminate, Micah Clark sent out a message to supporters to urge lawmakers to reject any changes.

Ed Kilgore reminds us that faced with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, conservatives across the country — "not all of them southerners" and certainly many of them Democrats — "executed a strategic retreat, accepting the demolition of de jure segregation but defending de facto segregation via private action." That is, defending the notion that private business owners should be free in public accommodations to select whom they wish to serve. Kilgore quotes Barry Goldwater at length on the matter, concluding:

Like southern “Christian” segregationists in the recent past, today’s politicized conservative Christians are executing a strategic retreat into an allegedly private sphere where they are on stronger ground in resisting anti-discrimination policies. They intensely dislike the parallels on the grounds that hostility to gay rights and/or same-sex marriage in deeply entrenched in their faith, or in the case of conservative evangelicals, in the Bible.

That is exactly what the segregationists said as well, of course. It is not hard to foresee a day when the tortured efforts of religious leaders to stitch together a few culture-bound passages into an eternal condemnation of homosexuality (or for that matter, abortion, which is virtually invisible in Scripture) will look just as absurd and embarrassing as yesterday’s thundering sermons on black people being consigned to submission by the Curse of Ham. And then maybe the strategic retreat into efforts to hang onto discrimination via protestations of “religious liberty” will look less sympathetic as well.

But it is that Haskellish relflex on the right to deny the truth of what everyone can else see that's more infuriating, as well as being more broadly applied than on just religious matters. It is as if they believe that by smiling broadly and speaking earnestly enough, observers will be duped as to their real intentions.

I'm talking about photo ID laws peddled as "election integrity" measures. Or the changes being made in the GOP-controlled North Carolina legislature to how cities and counties elect local leaders, rigging the game in their favor. Expanding some panels and shrinking others by legislative fiat, always claiming the effort is meant to improve representation and, wouldn't you know, always tilting the playing field towards Republicans. As if no one is wise to what they're really up to.

UPDATE: Thomas Mills at PoliticsNC blog this morning reinforces my point. Watch your backs, people:

Now, the flood gates have opened. Republicans all over the state want to assert their authority over the peons who hold local offices. As the state grows and becomes more urban and liberal, the GOP wants to ensure minority rule by rigging the system.