I don’t feel the least bit vindictive about Kim Davis. The jokey memes going around on the Internet–about her bad hair, her bad marriages, her born out-of-wedlock twins–make me cringe. Born-again Christians aren’t hypocrites for having been sinners. Kim Davis would be the first person to tell you how bad she used to be in her own lights: that’s why being “saved” and staying saved is so important to her.
Truth be told, I feel sorry for her. She’s had this fantastically high-paying government job ($86,000 per year in a county where the per capita annual income, the Census Bureau tells me, is about $17,000) that she is almost certainly going to lose on principle–or because of the terrible advice she’s been getting from the cynical lawyers* and pols who are egging her on.
And don’t believe the know-it-alls who tell you how rich she’s going to get from her book and her public appearances. She’s too old and not enough of a Barbie Doll for Fox News to spend much post-prison time on her, and besides, she’s a registered Democrat (not to mention her messy past). She’s no Sarah or Bristol Palin, and the Palins’ careers aren’t exactly vectoring in the right directions either. I worked in book publishing for a long time; I think I know whereof I speak, at least when it comes to deals for ghost-written instant books. Trust me, HarperCollins won’t be blazing any paths to Kim Davis’s door.
For all of the snark and bathos and hyperbole I read on the Internet, very few people seem to have grasped the essential point–that she’s in jail not because of what she refuses to do herself (her so-called civil disobedience), but because of what she won’t let her clerks do (her dereliction of duty and misuse of her office). The deal she spurned that the conservative Bush-appointed Republican judge offered her would have let her not do her job so long as she allowed her subordinates to carry out theirs , which is precisely what they are doing now that she is locked up.
Naturally Mike Huckabee, who is hoping to make the most hay out of Davis’s misfortune, sees things differently. He says that Christianity itself is being “criminalized” and is looking to re-launch his brand with a personal visit to her in jail on Tuesday, followed by a camera-ready “I’m With Kim Liberty Rally.” Cruz says that her persecutors believe “that Christians should not serve in public office.” Jindal says that it’s wrong that “anyone should have to choose between following their conscience and religious beliefs and giving up their job and facing financial sanctions”–which is why military officers are allowed to order their men to lay down their arms if they don’t approve of the wars they’re fighting, to name just one example.
Rand Paul, who apparently didn’t know about the deal Davis rejected, said that the feds should have compromised and let a notary public sign the licenses; I actually agree with him that Davis’s jailing may set the pro-gay marriage movement back somewhat. “What’s going to happen is it’s going to harden people’s resolve on this issue,” he said (the quotes in this and the above paragraph come from this CNN compendium of candidates’ reactions).
Fiorina and Christie say she should resign. Kasich too. He says it’s stupid that she’s in jail, but that she should carry out the law as she was elected to do. Not that anyone cares about what Jeb Bush thinks (who’s no stranger to making martyrs out of women, having exploited Terri Schiavo so egregiously ten years ago, and even tried to put her husband in jail), but this time around he’s hewing to the reasonable middle, saying that Davis was “sworn to uphold the law and it seems to me there ought to be common ground, there ought to be big enough space for her to act on her conscience and…now that the law is the law of the land, for a gay couple to be married in whatever jurisdiction that is.” Donald Trump is oddly temporizing, saying, in diction that is oddly reminiscent of Jeb’s brother’s, that he is “a believer on both sides of the issue.”
So six months before a single vote has been cast, a pair of dueling martyrs has emerged, staking out the GOP’s two poles. Trump’s Know Nothings have made Kathryn Steinle, the young woman who was murdered by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco, into theirs, claiming that a border wall might have saved her life (much to the consternation of her family); his opponents are vesting their hopes in Kim Davis and the whole panoply of values issues that defined Republican campaigning in the good old days before Trump upended everything.
And they say the Republicans don’t care about women!
*Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver’s causes include the War on Christmas and creation science; naturally he has compared Kim Davis’s plight to the Jews’ in Nazi Germany.