|John Boehner's reluctance to bring up ENDA will hurt GOP|
One thing we learned from the 2012 elections is that the Republican Party is going to have to shift gears in a big way to appeal to an electorate that is steadily becoming younger, less white, more empathetic towards women’s issues, and more accepting of marriage equality and LGBT rights in general. Party leaders held a post mortem following President Obama’s decisive victory over Romney and agreed that with changing demographics, the GOP needs to change its thinking and policies accordingly or they will be relegated to wilderness status despite the gerrymandering that will keep them in control of the House for a good number of years.Therein lies the problem for the Party of Lincoln: the House of Representatives. With its historic lack of productivity these past few years and record-breaking low approval ratings, the GOP-controlled House is a major drag on the Party brand. You can toss in the increasingly unpopular tea party contingent, the generally unlikable and weak Speaker of the House, John Boehner, the brinkmanship tactics that shut down the federal government and almost threw the country’s creditworthiness over the cliff, one can see the red flags facing the Republicans.
The tea party faction has been the root of the problem. Their take no prisoners ideology supersedes common sense governance, and compromise is a dirty word—akin to (gasp!) raising taxes on the very wealthy one percent of the population. Mr. Boehner is beholden to this group lest there be an uprising within the Party whereby he would experience the humiliating process of being replaced. His better political instincts have been held in check by this fear, and the country as well as the GOP has suffered.Despite polling that suggests that a majority of Americans support passage of an Immigration reform bill, it’s stalled in the House. In addition, failure to enact a Farm bill because of the tea party’s opposition to the food stamp program could result in Americans paying $8 per gallon of milk soon. There is also the potential that in the coming weeks another budget impasse will result in yet another government shutdown and perhaps a failure to extend the debt ceiling. These aren’t exactly items that Mike Murphy should crow about.
And then there’s ENDA—the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act that has been languishing in Congress since forever, it seems. A comprehensive bill that would protect LGBT folks in employment (with the obligatory exclusions for religious organizations) has received increasing support among voters over the years. So much so that the U.S. Senate easily passed the measure last month on yes, a bipartisan basis. Nobody openly favors discrimination so that people lose their jobs, fail to get hired or fail to be promoted based solely on whom they love or how they see themselves. Right?So, here you go, GOP. Pass the bill so it is signed into law. Demonstrate you’re not the homophobic lot we think you are and show the world that finally you can take that one step forward you’ve been urged to do so that you may possibly be electable once again.
Nah. That same Mr. Boehner won’t have it. It’s not needed, he says. It would result in “frivolous litigation in the employment area.” Never mind a law always has an enforcement mechanism, but the Speaker of the House seems to have forgotten that critical component of legislation.Earlier this month ten members of Congress—five from each party—sent a letter to the recalcitrant Speaker. “Job discrimination against any American creates an uneven playing field that runs contrary to the basic notion of equality and our economic efficiency,” the lawmakers wrote. “What matters most is not that we share the exact same beliefs as our co-workers or employees, but that we take pride in our work, respect our co-workers and customers, and get the job done.”
There are 201 co-sponsors of the bill, and observers believe there are enough votes to gain passage. But Mr. Boehner remains stuck in this fear-the-tea-party mode and so far, is opposed to bringing it to the floor. Most polls are showing that at least 70 percent of Americans nationally favor such legislation. More importantly to Representatives, a majority exists in each of the 50 states and most who identify as Republican back it as well. This measure should fly given the level of popular support it receives.A coalition of the logical should put pressure on Mr. Boehner to almost embarrass him to bring the legislation to a vote. His refusal to see the light on this issue in addition to the other antics of the GOP-controlled House could very well make the Republican Party virtually irrelevant in national elections for years to come.