Little Rock Shocker

If I was startled to discover GA’s Republican Gov. Nathan Deal is among the nation’s most committed criminal justice reformers, I’m only a bit less surprised that AR Republican Gov. Asa Hutchison is refusing to sign the “religious liberty” bill his party whipped through the legislature. Didn’t he get the memo that such laws represent nothing more than a tiny token of respect for the conservative Christians who have lost the culture wars?

Before we get too excited, it should be noted that Hutchison has not, despite the loose use of that term in some accounts, actually vetoed the bill, and if I’m not mistaken, under Arkansas law it can take effect without his signature. But still, in conjunction with Mike Pence’s request for a “correction” of the Indiana law, Hutchison’s similar gesture represents a real reconsideration of a strategy that seemed to be axiomatic for pols in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision.

As I suggested in an earlier post on Georgia’s hesitation over passage of a “religious liberty” law (the opportunity will formally end tomorrow if nothing else happens), we may be seeing an unanticipated silver lining from the forelock-tugging attitude towards “job creators” that Republican Governors, especially in the South, seem to think of as central to “economic development.” Sometimes corporations ask for tax breaks and regulatory “relief” and state assistance in fighting off unions; sometimes they ask for a halt to attacks on the mainstream “culture” from which they make their profits. Mammon giveth and Mammon taketh away, but in most intra-Republican Party conflicts, Mammon holdeth the whip hand.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.