So AZ Gov. Jan Brewer did what most people expected (and many in her own party wanted) by vetoing SB 1062 yesterday afternoon, basically calling it a poorly drafted solution to a problem that didn’t exist. She did not offer to support any sort of substitute to provide succor to Bakers of Conscience or Florists of Christian Principle. For the moment, the Great Religious Liberty crusade that began in 2012 with high hosannas has ground to a halt. As I noted yesterday, it will be fascinating to watch both Christian Right theoreticians and Republican pols figure out what to do next after this debacle.
Also yesterday, Kevin Drum did a post on this subject in which a friend of his is quoted as lumping me in with Josh Marshall and Andrew Sullivan as people who are prematurely declaring the final defeat of the Christian Right, presumably because of my TPM column suggesting the “religious liberty” campaign is backfiring on its creators. As flattered as I am with the company, I have to plead innocent to that charge, having written pretty incessantly that the Christian Right is not going away any time soon, or maybe ever.
A significant chunk of the Republican Party rank-and-file, including most of those self-identifying with the Tea Party Movement, are culture warriors who almost certainly support the basic idea incorporated in SB 1062, not to mention broader Christian Right goals like eliminating abortion rights and banning same-sex marriages. The “religious liberty” campaign was designed to build a coalition defending religious conservatives with support beyond their own ranks. It’s not working out, but all that likely means is that the folks behind these bills will find a variation on this strategy or come up with another one.
Yes, we’ll hear the usual suspects of the Republican Establishment saying–often off-the-record–that the debacle over “religious liberty” bills shows that the GOP needs to stop talking about cultural issues altogether and focus on the economy and Obamacare blah blah bark bark woof woof. And that may actually happen between now and November. But anyone who thinks the Christian Right is going to limp off into retirement doesn’t understand these people at all.