By Adam Schalke
An idea frequently mentioned in conservative circles is that the states are the “policy laboratories” of America. If a state passes a law, and it benefits the state greatly, then it should applied nationally. Likewise, if a state passes a law, and the law ends up hurting the state, then it is to be repealed, forgotten and should not to be tried by other governments.
The idea works in theory, and it should work in practice, but the problem is that too many officials in too many states have a hard time admitting that they are wrong.
Earlier in April, Governor Pat McRory of North Carolina signed a bill into law that forbid transgender people from using restrooms that corresponded to their gender identities, but instead forced them to use bathrooms based on their gender assigned at birth, regardless of the current state of their transition. Very soon after he signed the bill, businesses and celebrities started boycotting the state.
Bruce Springsteen, a longtime LGBT advocate, was perhaps the most outspoken example. He cancelled a scheduled concert in the state, and when criticized for it, he shot back by saying that taking a stand for transgender rights is “more important than a rock show.”
Granted, one could feel sorry for the politicians in North Carolina who did not anticipate this backlash against their bill, but they cannot say that they did not see this coming. This is almost exactly what happened in Indiana, and Arizona before it, where LGBT people were scrutinized under the guise of “religious freedom,” and how those states in turn were scrutinized and boycotted for making bills that had no practical use and no business being made.
Another thing all three of these states have in common is that they are solid red, very conservative states with unified Republican governments in each of them. Sadly, it seems that the actions that these states took seem to so perfectly mirror the new train of thought in Republican policy-making: issues don’t matter, but inconveniences do.
To so many legislators in the GOP, things like climate change, income inequality, and the militarization of America’s police are worth mentioning sometimes, but do not seem to demand action.
On the other hand, things that are inconveniencing to their base, like homosexual and transgendered communities, or having to ask for a form in English, now require some laws to be made, even if nobody asked for them in the first place.