When I give talks about the Benedict Option, I tell people that the signal event was not Obergefell, but the Indiana RFRA debacle a couple of months earlier. That was when Big Business took sides in the culture war in a very big way — and did so against social conservatives, who lost massively.
A reader sends in this Politico piece about how the RFRA loss shattered the GOP coalition in the Hoosier State. The hook? Ted Cruz’s failure to connect with locals regarding his socially conservative message. Excerpts:
It was not supposed to go this way for Cruz. Indiana seems to be, at least from 30,000 feet, a barn-red bastion of Bible-believing IndyCar social conservatives—a place where a Washington Wiseman like Senator Richard Lugar can lose a primary to a bomb-throwing conservative like Richard Mourdock 60 to 40 percent.
But over the past year, the state’s Republican landscape has shifted. Last March, when conservative Gov. Mike Pence signed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law, the once-lockstep Republican coalition here fractured, putting daylight between the state’s social conservatives, who backed Pence, from the fiscal conservatives, who have become squeamish over divisive social issues—and who long for the days when the state was ruled by pragmatic, coalition-building Republican Mitch Daniels.
Today, vast swaths of the state’s Republican electorate, from Indianapolis to West Lafayette, have retreated from the culture wars. And like the 50s-era diner itself, Cruz’s dogged socially conservative message seems anachronistic—and perhaps a little tin-eared—to these fiscally conservative, socially liberal Republicans, the kind Cruz has to win over in the state’s crucial, populous and well-heeled “doughnut” counties surrounding Indianapolis (if you remove Marion County, the remaining surrounding counties form a doughnut-shaped ring) in order to have a shot at beating Donald Trump in the primary on Tuesday.
Perhaps sensing Cruz’s weakness in Central Indiana, Trump scheduled his penultimate rally on Monday night at the The Palladium, a $126 million sweeping structure built in the Italian Renaissance style in Carmel—tellingly in the heart of the doughnut counties. There, Karen Field, 50, a registered nurse, flocked to see the billionaire real estate mogul on her day off. On her blouse, she wore no fewer than five Trump buttons. In her yard, there are four Trump signs. Still for her, Trump was her second choice—behind none other than Daniels. “He was a people person,” she said of the former governor and Eli Lilly executive. “He was a business guy. I wish he would have run for president.” Field, too, turned up her nose at Cruz’s social conservative pitch on issues such as transgender bathrooms.
“Talk to me about something that’s important,” she said.
Karen Field doesn’t understand why this is important, probably because Republicans haven’t been able to explain it. Then again, when you get to the point where you have to explain why it’s a bad idea to let men use the women’s restroom, you’ve already lost something big.