Indiana Governor Mike Pence did his party’s presidential candidates a big favor by backing his state’s controversial “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
One of the biggest news stories of the week has to be Indian’s decision to go ahead with their controversial “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” The act’s supporters claim it is just a minor change allowing religious people to opt out of doing things that violate their beliefs, while it’s critics contend that it will allow business to legally discriminate against gays and lesbians. Either way it’s a controversial law that is causing Indiana quite the headache when it comes to the Hoosier State’s image, especially in the business world.
But as Jonathan Bernstein pointed out the other day, Mike Pence probably helped out the contenders to the 2016 president, as they:
…got an early reminder: The positions that play well in a small bubble of party politics and on Fox News may go wrong when the larger November 2016 electorate is exposed to them.
The only way a politician can get a party’s nomination is to be fluent in the language the party speaks. For Republicans today, this means Christians in the U.S. are an at-risk minority, and Obamacare is to blame for rising health costs and lost coverage, and the economy is a disaster, and Benghazi is a scandal that has been covered up. And so on.
Those statements are false.
Any Republican presidential candidate who pointed any of this out would be out of contention in no time. But politicians who live in the bubble, and no longer even recognize that they’re in it, also face a big risk: They lose track of the reality outside it.
The bubble that presidential candidates enter when they start running is a well documented reality and it can a lot of problems for potential contenders. That’s probably exactly what happened when Obama said his famous “guns and religion” comment back in 2008 as well as Mitt Romney’s famous 47% comment in the last election.
In other words the idea of “white privilege” might be an interesting topic for a sociology seminar, but I wouldn’t recommend talking about it while campaigning in Poweshiek County, Iowa. Even if people talk about it quite a bit online.
To be sure these types of gaffes won’t automatically sink a candidate. But perceptions about a candidate being out of the ideological mainstream can hurt candidates in general elections, which is also certainly what happened to Barry Goldwater in 1964 and George McGovern in 1972.
Conservative activists may think it’s a good idea to pass these sorts of laws about “religious freedom,” but most millennial voters aren’t exactly excited about them.
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Photo by Darron Cummings/AP