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The GOP's "Religious Freedom" Fiasco: What Is, and Is Not, the Good News

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It has been a remarkable turn of events in the story of these two states -- first Indiana, then Arkansas -- passing these so-called "Religious Freedom" measures.

It's a story that has been heartening for liberals/progressives -- and for good reason. The Republicans made their usual effort to make hay out of the bigotries they have encouraged in their base. And lo and behold, these craven tactics have blown up in their faces because the whole nation is watching and the national culture has moved far and fast away from that bigotry.

Why not enjoy that spectacle!

But it is also important to note what the story does not demonstrate: these events do not contradict the story that our politics are increasingly under the control of Big Money.

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Rachel Maddow last night explained the powerful role that "business" -- including giants like Apple and Walmart -- has played in pushing both Governor Pence in Indiana to "fix" a measure he'd just signed, and Governor Hutchinson of Arkansas to announce his intention to veto a measure he'd advocated only days before.

It is true that "the people" have played a role in this: popular support of a non-discriminatory culture -- particularly among the workers ( the technology fields) many powerful business want to be attract -- has made this kind of bigotry "bad for business."

But still, it is very thanks to the power of Big Money that these GOP panderers to the worst in their base have had to back down.
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From Walmart
(image by JeepersMedia)

The Republican Party brings together in alliance a force of social conservatism (fueled these days overmuch by fears and resentments) and a force of Big Money (with an apparently insatiable appetite for wealth and power).

This story demonstrates that it is the second of those two forces that really dominates that coalition. Bigotry isn't OK when it's bad for business.

But we already knew that. Issues like abortion and gay marriage are good for getting the votes. But it is Big Money that runs the show.

The Big Money force uses those "culture war" issues to distract Republican voters. But we shouldn't allow ourselves, too, to be distracted from where the real action is.

As ugly as are the appeals to fear and prejudice, and as good news as it is for this instance of political pandering to have backfired, it is the power of Big Money that is the real threat to America's future we should be worrying about.

(Article changed on April 2, 2015 at 16:16)


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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)

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