Something is astir at the Statehouse. Something is arising from the fog that is the process of legislating. The Republicans are becoming anti-business. The supermajority hopes to retain the financial support of the business community while treading on its toes. Republicans no longer feel subservient to business leaders. They are switching to new energy sources: fear of the right and fearful ideas from the right.
Let’s identify a couple of the anti-business ideas now afloat in the Indiana House. Businesses that promote the environment are to be chastised. Our pension funds are to be sent to the fossil fuel industry, especially coal companies. So what if that ties our banks up in knots? So what if our pension funds are put at risk?
Hospitals that are too profitable for today’s Republicans are to be fined. There are preemptive strikes against “woke” capitalism. Economic strategies are to be imported from Texas or Florida, not Wall Street or the business schools at IU and Purdue.
The House Republicans huddle together out of fear of their own “base,” the MAGA voters. There is rarely a split in the votes of the 70-member Republican caucus. Few really bad ideas die in the bowels of the Republican caucus. The collapse of the idea of partisan school board elections is the exception.
The focus is on identifying enemies. Public schools are at the top of the enemies list, but the attack on them has to be subtle since 90% of our school families are in these “government schools.” So the chosen tactic involves a combination of undercutting and picking off weak targets. Money is diverted from public education to vouchers for folks who are doing quite nicely in terms of income and are already using private schools.
Librarians are targeted. They are accused of spreading pornography and are to be threatened with criminal prosecution. Who wants such a job? Whatever happened to the idea that school principals could deal with this concern? Instead, the Republican legislators unleash their favorite prosecutors to make an example of a school librarian. Teachers are given license to be mean to transgender youth. This sends yet another message to the feared base.
Much of this is the fruit of gerrymandering. Once the Republicans assigned themselves close to 70 safe seats, the only real concern is their own primary. The business establishment is not particularly adept at fighting on that battlefield. It is used to relying on the House leadership to suppress the right wing. But the right has grown in size and hardened in attitude.
If you want an object lesson in all this, you need only look at the fate of former Rep. Dan Leonard. He was the respected voice of pro-business Republicans. He shepherded the unemployment system through a series of crises. This long-term incumbent was soundly defeated in last May’s primary by Lorissa Sweet in a district moved west from Fort Wayne.
Sweet took the floor last week and put in a budget amendment attacking the Kinsey Institute at IU. She stated that, “We don’t know what they are hiding there.” God forbid she looks into the chemistry or computer labs.
Not satisfied with displaying her own fear of research into sexual matters, Sweet forced a roll call vote over the apparent objections of leadership. The more traditional Republican were left to “skate” (i.e. not vote) or to publicly align with the hard right. Business leaders and incumbent moderate Republicans probably got the message.•
DeLaney, an Indianapolis attorney, is a Democrat representing the 86th District in the Indiana House of Representatives. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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