It is religion that motivates Governor Phil Bryant. When I first came to Mississippi, I thought perhaps Bryant was a political opportunist, playing along with the wishes of the many. But Bryant is a True Believer.
The idea of the true believer vs. the pragmatist: the place where religion truly meets politics (implementation of a Christian worldview) and not just for votes (“I hate abortion now come vote vote vote!”). The opportunists of the 80s (working before that toward a more active role in national politics) who joined Evangelicals and Catholics on the abortion issue (mostly abortion) to drive the one issue voters to the polls. It invited would be public servants to mix their ideology into policy-making in a very, very real way.
The unintended or intended byproduct is radical right-wing legislation that impacts women. Almost always without fail, it is women that suffer at the wrong end of radical ideology. Anti abortion bills, “Personhood” bills, limiting access/removing access to reproductive health services, TRAP laws, trans vaginal ultrasounds (forced), and on and on. These are rooted solely in religion, nothing more.
I have said this to several people who bemoan the current administration: it is a weird state of affairs when you wax nostalgic for the days of Haley Barbour. Barbour was a pragmatist – a social conservative as much as needs be but really, a fiscal conservative. Phil Bryant is an ideologue – he couldn’t find real conservative fiscal policy with both hands. He excels, however at social conservatism – the true believer. When he signed the school prayer bill, with all earnestness and an air of sanctimony he said, simply finally it is done.
The political opportunists – like Nycole Campbell Lewis, the governor’s head of the teen pregnancy prevention program (which is less teen pregnancy prevention, more praising the Lord). People – black and white, men and women – tell me the exact same thing about her: she was put in the position because she is a black woman and Bryant needed a black woman to head his teen pregnancy coalition.
Lewis is very, very intelligent. She is a PhD. LMSW. The fact that her intellect figured far, far less into the decision to bring her into the mix is disturbing. Tokenism is alive and well in Mississippi. Ms. Lewis has a bright future in politics. That is if the ACLU investigation doesn’t make her the fall guy for a corrupted* Bryant administration.
People talk until they won’t. Until it becomes real. My contacts within health and human service agencies and even pro-women, pro-church state separation groups are clamming up now that it is almost time to go into the studio.
This is what happens when elections are at stake, legislation is threatened by speaking truth to power, funding can be cinched at the throat. People stop talking.
I may not have a radio program at this rate.
* A note about “corruption” – true believers do not see using public funds to preach as corrupt – even though proselytizing and using federal/state fund for revivals is against the law. It is a calling. It is how things must be done.