The Outstater: The GOP Steps on Itself

January 27, 2017

“I am a man, but I can change. If I have to, I guess . . .” — The Man’s Prayer from the Red Green Show

THE SPEAKER of the Indiana House of Representatives this week defended a state legislator who indirectly made fun of participants in the recent Women’s March on Washington. The massive protest was against a wide range of conservative issues, policies and values but was primarily aimed at a new Republican president.

“Look, whether or not you think the material humorous, those who take to the streets in silly costumes and hats carrying signs and shouting slogans to make a sailor blush invite ridicule,” said Speaker Brian Bosma. “In any case, the rights of this legislator to freely express himself and, I would guess, express the view of a good number who voted for him, shall not be the subject of censure or even challenge by my office. We have important work to do here.”

No, the Speaker never said anything of the sort. That would be false news. Also, that would be an effective Republican leader. Bosma instead forced an apology from the offending lawmaker.

None of this, please know, had anything to do with respecting women or their acknowledged rights. It had to do with a GOP willing to kowtow to protesters dressed as female private parts if there are enough of them. Most important, it had to do with a leadership abandoning its responsibilities in order to hide behind the ever-changing masks of identity politics. H.L. Mencken called it “combat by crazes.”

Such effeteness is degrading the Party here. If a Speaker of the Indiana House cannot stand up for a fellow Republican legislator against a radical and vitriolic protest organized in Washington 500 miles away, he will not stand up for everyday Hoosiers trying to hold house and home together in Toad Hop or Birdseye.

Thus an increase in the gas tax (oops, user fee) that will spell chaos for the average family budget. Thus a tone-deaf proposal to raise the pay of the governor and other high officials. Thus a spending formula that assumes all expenditures are justified de facto but that a tax cut must be justified with a tax increase somewhere else. Thus the absence of serious discussion as to whether there might be areas of state expenditure or even entire departments that are either unnecessary, unwarranted or superfluous.

None of this comes as a surprise to Martina Webster, a Republican on the Sellersburg Town Council and a member of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. She has spent some time comparing the 2014 GOP Platform with the most recent one, almost twice the size as if verbiage is integrity.

She found the most striking difference to be the GOP’s unquestioning acceptance of government-directed preschool education, the developmental value of which is far from determined. “Why not just call it what it is, taxpayer-funded childcare?” she asks. Private property, the single most important factor in investment? Webster had to go back to the 2006 platform to find mention of it. The concept is taken up in the current platform only in regard to a tax.

Today’s Indiana Republican Party, trying mightily to be sensitive to all crazes, stands on shifting sand, only a broader patch of it this year. That should worry any woman — or man— who looks to it for political representation.

— Craig Ladwig


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