Michigan, meet Indiana: Blaming unions

 

I used to think there wasn't much difference between

Republicans and Democrats in Indiana. "Republicrat"

seemed an apt way of describing this state's genus politicalus.

That was before Republicans took control of the

Statehouse.

In last November's elections, Republicans added six

members to their majority in the state Senate. In the House, where Democrats

previously held a one-vote advantage, the Republicans really romped, adding

19 seats.

Factor in Republican Governor Mitch Daniels and you

have what amounts to one-party rule.

This year's legislative session has been a crash

course in what one-party rule &#8212 make that Republican Party rule &#8212 looks like.

In just a few weeks, Republican politicians appear to have set the stage to

roll back the 21st Century and deposit Indiana in a time capsule

dated 1920-something.

Republicans have gone on a legislative bender. So far,

they have put forth a bill aimed at creating a draconian immigration law based

on racial profiling. Then there is the proposal to allow people to carry guns

and ammunition into a variety of public places, while restricting the ability

of communities to regulate guns.

If Republicans have their way, Indiana would

have some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, and

Planned Parenthood could find its funding to provide reproductive health

services to disadvantaged women slashed. A Republican plan to change the way

schools are funded would divert public money to private schools, cut funding for

urban districts where student enrollments are decreasing, and further

accelerate what has clearly become the dismantling of the state's public

education system.

And, as if all this weren't enough, Republicans have renewed

their campaign to write second-class citizenship into the state's constitution

by putting forth a discriminatory amendment that not only bans gay marriage,

but refuses to recognize any form of legal partnership, like civil unions,

between same-sex couples.

As has been pointed out countless times in the past,

Indiana already has a law making gay marriage illegal. That's not good enough for

state Republicans. They seem to sense the fundamental unfairness of the law.

They know it could be challenged in court and that, someday, a judge might rule

it unconstitutional.

So they want to write this unfairness into the constitution

itself.

That'll fix those gays. It will be the equivalent of a

sign saying "Stay Away!"

What appears to have escaped the state's Republican

defenders of heterosexuality is that their insistence on granting privileges to

some people, while outlawing those privileges for others, actually makes

Indiana appear not virtuous but backward. The Greater Indianapolis Chamber of

Commerce has gone on record in opposition to the amendment because its members

fear it proclaims Indiana to be intolerant and unwelcoming.

But there's the rub. The state's Republicans could

care less what people think in Indianapolis. Indeed, as one reads through this

session's legislative checklist, it's hard not to see what amounts to a strong

anti-urban bias. Indianapolis has become a significant point of entry for Mexican

immigrants. It also has a significant problem with gun violence. Many women are

drawn to the city because it affords greater access to reproductive health care

than is found in rural communities. And while the city's public school system

has seen declining enrollment, it has also been called on to play a greater and

more complex role in the lives of the students who remain.

Indianapolis has also become a Democratic political stronghold,

as well as an oasis of relative economic prosperity compared with the rest of

Indiana. I suspect these characteristics are not lost on Republican legislators

whose constituents share a history of mistrust and resentment toward the city.

The feeling that Indianapolis somehow profits at a cost

to the rest of the state has been an article of bad faith in outlying

communities for years. This prejudice has probably been exacerbated by Indiana's

overall lack of economic vitality. This year's Republican obsession with social

legislation reflects that party's basic inability to actually do anything about

creating jobs or truly improving the state's feeble economy.

It also speaks to Gov. Daniels' lack of leadership. It's

ironic that the governor's presidential bona fides are being touted by national

pundits at the very moment legislators in his own party appear to be rolling

him. Whatever else Daniels may be, he is a businessman. Surely he knows that

his party's obsessions with immigration, women's reproductive rights and gay

rights are not only wasting valuable time that could spent on local government

reforms, but are painting Indiana into a competitive corner in relation to

other states.

Daniels spent significant time and money campaigning

for Republicans in the months leading up to November's election. He wanted to

make sure he got the majorities that now hold sway in the Statehouse. That he

has yet to call in his markers, to impose some semblance of discipline on what,

so far, has been a runaway train, makes him either impotent or complicit in what

will be remembered as the social undoing of Indiana by his party and his party

alone &#8212 the state's Republicans.

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