And so, in honor of April 1, we bring you this nugget from the strange intersection of Poorly Concealed Political Agenda Avenue and Sorry Mike No One Fell For It Boulevard:
NASCAR has come out against RFRA!
You heard right. Even NASCAR -- bastion of right-wing politics, Republican stronghold, People Who Booed Michelle Obama -- thinks the notion that Indiana's RFRA law is actually about "religious freedom" is a crock, too.
And if you think this is part where I shout "April Fools!", think again. Because here's the real April Fool's joke: It's no joke.
NASCAR really did express its revulsion for Indiana's new RFRA law, joining a pile of other businesses and politicians on both sides of the aisle. Because, no, Pence and has cabal weren't fooling anyone. The superfluous bill he signed into superfluous law was crafted by and lobbied for by hard-right zealots whose rabid homophobia is on record. That's why the thing was signed behind closed doors, so we couldn't see 'em all lined up behind Pence.
So much for benign intent.
Now the cover's blown and money's sprinting away from Indiana like Usain Bolt, and Pence is backing up so fast you can hear the beep-beep-beep. Corporate money runs politics in America, surprise, surprise, and so Pence will try to walk this back just enough to calm the waters without alienating the yahoos he needs to get the Republican nomination for president.
That's what this is all about, of course, and, contrary to conventional wisdom, the furor over this hasn't wrecked his national political future. It's launched it. This is Pence's standing-in-the-schoolhouse-door moment; the original catapulted George Wallace into national prominence, and this one's done the same for Pence.
A week ago, no one outside of Indiana had heard of him. Now he's been on CNN, on ABC, on Fox, and everyone in America knows him. And while most of the country thinks he's a gay-bashing hayseed, the yahoos are undoubtedly sitting in front of their TVs shouting "Yeeaaah, Mike! Way to stand up for traditional American values!"
Or something like that.
We can all hope the backlash to the backlash (because RFRA is nothing more than a backlash to losing the same-sex marriage fight) leads to Indiana guaranteeing protection from discrimination for its gay citizens. But this is still Indiana, so probably not. What we can do is take the core message from this whole sorry mess.
The business of America remains business, and it drives even social agendas. And sports swings every bit as a big a stick in that arena as any other corporate entity.
If not more so.
It's one thing for a business such as Angie's List or Lily or whoever to come out against RFRA. But nothing gets headlines like the ruling body for Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. coming out against it. Or the NCAA -- which, in a bitter stroke of irony, conducts the Final Four in Indianapolis this weekend -- coming out against it. Or the NFL, the monolith that rules the sports landscape in this country like none other, saying it was studying the new law carefully.
Lily and Angie's List actually had to denounce the law to land a headline. The NFL had only to say it was studying the law to do so. That tells you all you need to know about just how much influence professional (or in the NCAA's case, quasi-professional) sports wield in America these days.