Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Shame on What Matters to Too Many Voters

The canary in the coal mine is how the seemingly least relevant issue facing our nation is becoming the battleground, the litmus test, between liberals and conservatives all across states where there is a relatively even split between left and right. Gender requirements regarding the use of bathrooms open to the public. People running for office will win or lose votes depending on how they stand (sit?) on that singular issue, one that has no serious impact on macro-economic issues (unless your state is facing a boycott from one side or the other for your political choices), national security or general well-being.
But those economic boycotts are also ripping apart business communities, traditionally Republican but who are suffering the boycott losses rather directly, and values-oriented Evangelicals who cling to their anti-LGBT values with fierce tenacity, come hell (pun intended) or high water (sorry flood victims).
The April 25th New York Times provides this example from North Carolina, a state with equalized right and left factions that just passed a controversial statute requiring people to use public-access restrooms in accordance with their biological gender. “Parrish Clodfelter, a 79-year-old retiree who lives on a central North Carolina farm, professes opinions about transgender people that might get him fired if he worked for a multinational corporation, though for many here, they constitute simple country wisdom.
“‘A man wants to change to a woman, he’s got a mental problem,’ Mr. Clodfelter said on Wednesday over lunch at Spiro’s Family Restaurant, where posters by the door advertised classes on carrying concealed weapons and a ‘Hillbilly Sunday’ Pentecostal church service.
“But Mr. Clodfelter has a different kind of problem. As a longtime Republican, he wants to support Pat McCrory, North Carolina’s Republican governor, in his re-election bid. At the same time, he is worried about the boycotts and lost jobs resulting from the law the governor signed in March that limits transgender bathroom access and eliminates antidiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people.
“If the backlash continues, Mr. Clodfelter said, he will consider voting for Mr. McCrory’s Democratic opponent, Roy Cooper, who supports the law’s repeal... ‘I’m afraid if they don’t change it,’ he said, ‘it’ll hurt the state.’…
“Now the law, and the backlash against it, have introduced a different kind of volatile energy to state politics here, roiling a governor’s race that could be the nation’s most competitive. It is also affecting other crucial contests, including that of Senator Richard Burr, who hopes to fend off a vigorous Democratic challenge from Deborah K. Ross, a former State House member and former state director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Last week, Mr. Burr, who has defended the law, came under attack from Democrats who have leapt at the chance to transform a cultural issue into an economic one, as the state has suffered the retreat of protesting companies, including PayPal, which canceled a plan to bring more than 400 jobs to Charlotte. On Thursday, the N.B.A. commissioner, Adam Silver, said the league would move its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte if the law were not changed.” McCrory’s popularity in the polls is slipping fast, but the Evangelicals are digging their heels in. That even GOP-frontrunner, Donald Trump, seems open to LGBTs is deeply troubling for these religious conservatives.
“Thus far, the uproar may be doing the most harm to Mr. McCrory, an affable former mayor of Charlotte who has struggled, since taking office in 2013, to maintain his reputation as a moderate in the face of a Republican-dominated legislature that is considerably more conservative than he is.
“An Elon University poll conducted from April 10 to 15 showed Mr. Cooper, the state’s longtime attorney general, leading Mr. McCrory 48 percent to 42 percent among registered voters. It was Mr. Cooper’s largest lead in the five polls that Elon has conducted in the last year.
‘‘But November is a long way off, and social issues reverberate in complex ways in a state that has a reputation for moderation but also produced Jesse Helms, the arch-conservative United States senator. Carter Wrenn, a longtime political strategist who worked with Mr. Helms, said Democrats had been winning arguments over the law of late. But he said Republicans would have time to make the case to voters that the law helps ensure privacy and security in public restrooms… ‘We’re not sure how this is all going to turn out,’ Mr. Wrenn said.
‘‘The issue is particularly troublesome for Mr. McCrory. Exit polls from 2012 show that he received the support of 49 percent of voters who described themselves as moderate and 19 percent of self-described liberals.
‘‘Mr. McCrory, 59, last week could barely contain his irritation that the law had taken center stage in the election, siphoning attention from his central message: that he has been a wise steward of the economy who had engineered what he and his team have branded the ‘Carolina Comeback.’
“This hornet’s nest, he argued, was first kicked not by him, but by the Democratic City Council in Charlotte, which passed a nondiscrimination ordinance in February allowing transgender people to use men’s or women’s bathrooms. Before it passed, he said, he emailed the Council to warn it that if it changed ‘basic restroom and locker room norms,’ he would be forced to support a state law overriding them.
“On [April 21st], he said he suspected that the entire matter had been orchestrated by Democrats and the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group, to give Democrats an advantage in a tight governor’s race.” NY Times. But this consternation, easy to identify and clearly stated, is hardly the be-all-and-end-all issue for this election. The bigger issue is a perspective from social conservatives, white Protestant conservatives with traditional rural values, that demographic changes are forever altering their relevance, their basic values and position in the American body politic. It’s a whole lot more than bathroom choice.
Relying on voter ID laws that mostly exclude liberal voters, gerrymandering that marginalizes Democrats or enjoying the basic structure of our constitutional democracy that clearly favors states and rural populations over cities and urban power is slowly vaporizing under a tsunami of ethnic and minority growth and demographic dominance. The upcoming 2020 Census will probably confirm social conservatives’ worst fears, require a shift in congressional districts and represent the end of rural-values dominance in American politics forever.
What’s worse for social conservatives is the relative tolerance by Millennials for alternative lifestyles, who are vastly more likely to embrace the Democratic Party over the GOP alternatives. A 2014 Pew Study says it all: “Overall, Millennials (currently ages 18-33) are the most liberal age group. In our report on Political Polarization in the American Public, we used a scale based on 10 political values questions about the role of government, the environment, homosexuality and other issues to measure ideological consistency. This survey of more than 10,000 Americans finds that, on this scale, Millennials are considerably more liberal than other generations: About four-in-ten Millennials are mostly (28%) or consistently (13%) liberal in their views, compared with 15% who are mostly (12%) or consistently (3%) conservative (44% are ideologically mixed). Older generations are progressively more conservative.
“The relative liberalism of Millennials translates into a greater likelihood of affiliating with or leaning toward the Democratic Party compared with those in older generations. Today, about half of Millennials (50%) are Democrats or lean to the Democratic Party, while just 34% affiliate with or lean to the GOP. By comparison, Baby Boomers (those ages 50 to 68) lean slightly Democratic (46% Democratic/Democratic leaning, 42% Republican/Republican leaning), while those in the Silent generation (ages 69 to 86) are about evenly divided (47% Republican/Republican leaning, 44% Democratic/Democratic leaning).
“But in addition to the generation’s Democratic tendency, Millennials who identify with the GOP are also less conservative than Republicans in other generations: Among the roughly one-third of Millennials who affiliate with or lean Republican, just 31% have a mix of political values that are right-of-center, while about half (51%) take a mix of liberal and conservative positions and 18% have consistently or mostly liberal views. Among all Republicans and Republican leaners, 53% have conservative views; in the two oldest generations, Silents and Boomers, about two-thirds are consistently or mostly conservative.” So much for the opinions of the generation rising to power.
The bigger and more interesting question we will face is the longer-term reaction of very well armed social conservatives who will be increasingly excluded from setting American policies and social vectors in the coming years. Will they let go and allow this transition to occur or will they dig in for what they see as a religious mandate? The Civil War was pretty much motivated by the same levels of passions and concerns… and we seem to be rising to the same issues (minus slavery) again.
I’m Peter Dekom, and if this entire nation cannot become “Americans” again, exactly what will become of this nation?

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