03/03/2014 11:01 am ET Updated May 03, 2014

The Arizona Veto: Sign of a New, Laser-Focused GOP?

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I had to laugh out loud when I read the following reaction from a Republican strategist to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of her state's atrocious anti-gay "freedom to discriminate bill":

"Most people agree that 2014 offers an outstanding opportunity to take back the Senate, but with that opportunity we've got to continue to focus the party message on things that are helpful," said Dave Kochel, a veteran party strategist in Iowa. ....The demand for Republicans, he said, is "to focus on what people are focused on, which is jobs, healthcare, a lot of other issues that rise a lot higher in people's minds than this."

And how is that going?

If a governor's decision to veto a ridiculously discriminatory two-page bill after days of deliberation and in the face of an economically damaging boycott is the sign of a new, no-nonsense Republican Party, it shows just how much standards for "no-nonsense" have shifted. If a painfully slow veto of a blatant discrimination bill is the new definition of laser-focus on jobs and economy, this party has taken a giant step backward.

And then there's this: The day after Brewer vetoed the anti-gay bill, Arizona's GOP-led House of Representatives took up a bill -- championed by the very same group that was behind the bill the governor had just vetoed -- that solves a nonexistent problem by permitting surprise inspections of abortion clinics... or as the Republicans would call it, "jobs!, jobs!, jobs!"

It feels like at least every week, we're expected to believe that Republicans have learned their lesson about the dangers of embracing extremism, whether the lesson comes in the form of an outcry from business owners turned off by an LGBT discrimination bill, disgust from Latino voters after yet another punt on immigration reform, or the disdain of women after another GOP politician decides to muse on "legitimate rape."

But is the lesson ever actually learned? Arizona's bill was vetoed, but similar legislation is being considered in states across the country. Not to mention the 22 states that enacted new abortion restrictions just last year. In Arizona and throughout the country, there seems to be a Grand Canyon-like gap between what everyone knows the Republican Party should do and what they actually do. Time after time, we see that they just can't help themselves. We all know the the embarrassing, crazy uncle who shows up at the family reunion. It seems like all of those crazy uncles have now banded together to control the Republican Party.

Until further notice, stay tuned for more laser focus by the GOP to protect those offended by women who want to make choices about their own bodies and bakers who don't want to bake gay wedding cakes.