The transformation is complete.
In Indiana, the Republican Party now is the party of big government—the political faction that wants to use state power to control people’s choices and lives.
That much became clear when Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law the “name” bill passed by GOP supermajorities in the Indiana General Assembly. This new law will require Indiana teachers and other educators to tell parents if their children ask to be called by a different name or a new set of pronouns.
Advocates for the law say it empowers parents.
Critics say it “outs” children and may expose them to trouble and trauma at home if their families aren’t supportive.
As is the case with so many of our bitter cultural debates in this state and country, both sides may have a point.
Doubtless, there are some caring parents who would like to know if their child is struggling to find his, her or their place in the world—and would be supportive and concerned rather than censorious or, God forbid, even abusive.
At the same time, there undoubtedly are Hoosier children who will feel even more isolated in a community they perceive as hostile because this new law prevents them from confiding in a trusted teacher or school staff member.
Most likely, there was a way to resolve these difficulties—perhaps by calling on parents to opt in for notifications and informing them of the legal penalties for abusing or mistreating their children or asking students to say whether they felt they would be imperiled if their parents were told.
But people who control great government power don’t think that way. They tend to believe that their clout imbues them with extraordinary stores of wisdom and virtue—and that might makes right.
People who possess such power think persuading others of the correctness of their positions is a waste of time.
It is easier just to use the government’s muscle to get what they want.
For more than a decade in this state, the Republican Party has controlled not only the governor’s office but, with supermajorities, both chambers of the Indiana General Assembly.
At one time, the GOP prided itself on its commitment to principles of limited government. They thought it wrong to use the power of the state to order people’s lives or to dictate the choices they could make.
Back then, Republicans railed against what they called “government overreach”—any attempt by the state to make decisions for people that they could or should make for themselves.
That was then.
This is now.
Yes, now, when the Republicans in this state believe they know more about medicine and patient care than doctors do. These Republicans want to determine not just what their own children can read but what everyone else’s can—and they’re willing to threaten librarians with punishment if those good and helpful souls commit the sin of honoring a young person’s request for a book on the forbidden list.
As if that were not enough, these same Republicans also want to insert the state and schools into the parent-child relationship and, at the same time, dictate to young people what they should be called.
These self-proclaimed “family values” conservatives want government to be part—perhaps the most decisive part—of intimate and sensitive family relationships.
So much for limited government.
So much, for that matter, for family values.
This is what power does.
It seduces even those who distrust it into relying on it to advance causes they think are just.
At first, the seduced are reluctant. The more often they use that power, though, the more comfortable they become with the idea.
Then, before too long, they find they have become what they once said they despised—the sort of politicians who see exercising government power as the first, not the last, resort. They see using the state’s might as a way to avoid not just arguments but discussions.
That’s what happened here.
That’s how, in Indiana, government became part of determining how doctors could treat patients, the ways parents could raise their children and what books everyone could read.
That’s how the GOP became the party of big government.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The views expressed are those of the author only and should not be attributed to Franklin College.