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Saturday, April 19, 2014

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Peter Lindstrom: Confusion Is Power in North Carolina

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(In 2012, North Carolina gubernatorial nominee Patrick McCrory endorsed a Republican Party platform that called Agenda 21, a set of environmental proposals by the UN, a conspiracy to take over America. McCrory won and state Republicans carry on with the crazy, the author says. Image: Getty)

Did you know America’s iconic small town, Mayberry, North Carolina, was a liberal utopia?

Its beloved patriarch, Sheriff Andy Taylor, fought for universal health care and was a close friend of Gomer Pyle, a happily married gay man and former Marine. Gomer’s cousin Goober was a southerner who spoke out for civil rights—he even traveled to the Twilight Zone to fight racism. And Sheriff Taylor’s son, Opie, became a director who finances progressive causes and even returned to Mayberry to campaign with his father for President Obama.

Republicans in North Carolina are trying to criminalize black churches from assisting in voter registration drives.

Sadly, Mayberry isn’t real.

What is real is North Carolina Republicans gone wild.

The whole world first took notice last year when they tried to outlaw rising sea levels — though how they would prosecute the Atlantic Ocean for breaking the law was unclear.

That bill was clearly the dumbest attempt to attack an ocean since Caligula ordered the Roman Army to attack Neptune. So Republicans revised it to merely ignore science and allow for the unrestricted development of the oceanfront.

North Carolina's House Majority Leader and 10 other Republicans took a bolder approach when they tried to establish an official state religion. That bill died, but not before legal scholars pointed out that it could allow future legislatures to ban guns or reinstitute slavery.

Give them credit. North Carolina Republicans found a way to make “crazy” look smart. They found ingenious ways to keep the details of their authoritarian agenda off the radar.

For example, last year gubernatorial nominee Patrick McCrory endorsed an RNC platform declaring that “Agenda 21,” an informal agreement to a set of environmental measures, as nothing less than a conspiracy by the United Nations to take over our America!

But Raleigh Republicans didn’t take “the Agenda 21 conspiracy” head on. Instead, they killed environmental and sustainability programs with budget cuts. Now they are on the verge of passing a law to ban any local efforts to enforce clean air or water standards.

After failing to pass a “photo-voter ID” bill clearly intended to block some Democrats and African Americans from voting, Raleigh Republicans are now trying to make it a crime for college students to vote away from home and for black churches to assist with voter registration.

Indeed, the GOP leadership thinks voting is sometimes unnecessary.

In this brave new topsy-turvy world, confusion, not knowledge is power.

Thus, Republicans were able to overturn a veto of an energy industry-authored fracking plan, because the legislative procedure was so complicated, an anti-fracking Democrat in the Assembly pushed the wrong button, which proved to be the deciding vote. Yet despite past precedent to correct the error, Republicans denied her the right to change her vote and the outcome.

Afterward, an editorial board snarked that if a Republican hit the wrong button, the leaders wouldn’t have hesitated to change that vote. It turns out they were wrong.

They think voting isn't all that necessary.

When Tea Party leaders discovered they couldn’t kill public funds for renewable-energy programs because several Republicans supported them, they nullified their votes.

The nightmare in Raleigh will not end soon. Thanks to a gerrymandering scheme, Democrats can only win 35 percent of the Assembly and Senate seats, even though Obama lost by less than 2 percent and several Democrats running statewide won easily.

For now, Democrats can only brood and hope Republicans try to establish a state religion or outlaw rising sea levels again to spark outrage.

Until then, their motto is “North Carolina Republicans: they put the "ass" in "assembly'"!


Peter Lindstrom is a political consultant and researcher. He lives in Washington, D.C.


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