16 November 2016

A lurch toward theocracy

The Republicans have a nasty theocratic surprise waiting for us -- the grotesquely misnamed "First Amendment Defense Act", which is in fact a national version of the pro-discrimination "religious freedom" laws enacted in places like Indiana and North Carolina over the last few years.  So far from "defending" the First Amendment, it would make religious taboos and prejudices a blanket excuse for violating the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, preventing the federal government from enforcing any limit on discrimination when that discrimination is motivated by religion.  Any form of discrimination against gays would become legal under federal law.  Obstruction of access to birth control, or to pretty much anything else that some knuckle-dragger decides he doesn't like, would be similarly protected.

Check out the link above and see for yourself.  The author is not exaggerating when he says that "if it becomes law, FADA will be the worst thing to happen to women and LGBT people in a generation."  At some point after Trump takes office, the Republicans will doubtless introduce the thing in the House.  Assuming it makes it to Trump's desk, he's said he will sign it.

A few thoughts on this:

1)  Contrary to the author's view, we can't count on a Senate filibuster to stop this.  When we assumed Hillary would be the next President, we were prepared to eliminate the filibuster in order to prevent the Republicans from blocking her Supreme Court nominees.  I have no doubt that they will eliminate it if necessary in order to ram their own plans through, however radical.

2)  A better option would be trying to turn moderate Republicans against it.  At the moment it looks like their Senate majority will be reduced to 52 -- we would only need three of them to vote no.

3)  It's conceivable that even Trump could be persuaded to change his mind.  He's already reversed or moderated his position on Obamacare and the Iran nuclear deal, among other things.  And he doesn't seem to be particularly prejudiced against gays or birth control.

4)  If the FADA does get enacted, state-level protections against discrimination will remain intact, so some states will have them and others will not.  The recent experience of Indiana and North Carolina suggests that states which fail to enact their own protections, or at least those which explicitly endorse discrimination, will face a substantial backlash from the private sector -- opposing religious bigotry is good for business.  Some, at least, will be brought into line that way.

5)  Finally, if the FADA ends up before the Supreme Court, it's likely to be found in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and thrown out.  Obviously this will no longer be the case if Trump packs the Court with wingnuts, but that would take time.  Even if he nominates a rabid rightist for the current vacancy, that will merely restore the situation which existed before the death of Scalia.  If the FADA is enacted, one can hope it will come before the Court before a second vacancy occurs.

However, the infuriating task of having to play defense against regression rather than fight for further progress is our lot only because (a) too much of our base failed to vote, and (b) the archaic Electoral College enabled the loser to "win".  Tell the legislators in your state to support the National Popular Vote initiative!

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