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Friday, April 03, 2015

Boycott Worked Persuading Indiana To Change Law

The GOP-majority Indiana state legislature did something republican legislators in Wisconsin would consider unthinkable. They "scrambled" to change a carefully engineered right-wing law designed to provide government sanction for discrimination under the umbrella of religious freedom, and did it in less than a week's time.

Granted, supporters of Indiana's so-called religious freedom RFRA law are laughably claiming Gov. Pence sold out, while those on the other side are saying it wasn't enough, that the law should be repealed. Regardless of my view on the law, one thing is certain. The risk posed by a state-wide boycott, particularly when a few big businesses got involved, was too much for the single-party ruled state to ignore.

Even if it meant fixing the law with damage-control lip service to appease the backlash like Indiana appears to have successfully done. Now juxtapose that with the last five years in Wisconsin where dozens of amendments by democrats to fix bad legislation were flushed down the toilet, and where petition after petition and tens of thousands of Wisconsinites protested their hearts out only to be completely ignored. Nothing moved Wisconsin legislators to change course, much less to consider even a minor fix.

But the specter of a boycott taking off on social media, without one protest, march, paid lobbyist or petition was enough to move the needle in Indiana and Arkansas, and THAT is what counts. Maybe not exactly in the direction to bring true reform or compromise (how do you compromise the 1st Amendment?), but enough to change course and expose inconsistencies in expected future wrong-headed policy.

Once more. Beyond the huge problems left in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby and Citizens United decisions, in a time when mountains of private money can smother voices and buy elected public officials operating in permanent campaign mode, this needs to be hammered home: Bad policies and bad politicians force boycotts.

Labor unions and grassroots - learn the lesson, take notice and proceed. But with due diligence.

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