As the national controversy grows surrounding Indiana’s new right-to-discriminate law, the pushback against Gov. Mike Pence (R) and his allies is intensifying. The Indianapolis Star, the state’s largest newspaper, abandoned subtlety this morning, running a full-page, front-page editorial with an all-caps headline that serves as a powerful command: “Fix This Now.”
But among Republican presidential hopefuls, the uproar is misguided – according to the national GOP candidates, the new law is great and doesn’t need “fixing.”
The scope and scale of the criticism continues to reach new heights. Private-sector leaders are demanding action; other states are launching boycotts; entertainers are canceling shows, and some Indiana communities are taking action on their own in the hopes of preventing discrimination.
But while much of the American mainstream moves in one direction, Republican presidential candidates are quickly scurrying in the other direction.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida weighed in Monday on the debate that has engulfed Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana over a new religious freedom law in the state that critics are calling legalized discrimination.Speaking to Hugh Hewitt, the conservative talk show host, Mr. Bush defended the law as similar to legislation in Florida and as a safeguard for religious belief. “I think Governor Pence has done the right thing,” said Mr. Bush, who is expected to run for president in 2016. “I think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.”
Remember, Jeb Bush is supposed to be the “gay-friendly” moderate of the GOP’s 2016 field.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) offered his support for the controversial Indiana law. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) did the same. Right-wing neurosurgeon Ben Carson has become an enthusiastic supporter of the Hoosiers’ anti-gay measure.
Around the same time, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) eagerly announced his support for the right-to-discriminate law, as did former Sen. Rick Santorum (R). Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was slightly more circumspect, though his super PAC’s press secretary said in a statement, “As a matter of principle, Gov. Walker believes in broad religious freedom and the right for Americans to exercise their religion and act on their conscience.”
Republican presidential politics is often an ugly business, requiring national GOP candidates to position themselves surprisingly far from the American mainstream. The electoral challenge is obvious: one of the far-right candidates is probably going to be the party’s 2016 nominee, and incidents like these will be hard to forget.