(This is a joint post by Douglas and Cato)
American liberalism is dead. Stop us if you have heard this one before.
Further proof of this can be found in the liberal reaction to the firebombing of an office being rented by the North Carolina Republican Party. In addition to the damage from the fire, graffiti was also written on the side of the building that said “Nazi Republicans get out of town or else”.
Let us remind you that the North Carolina Republican Party has, in the last five years:
- Repealed the Racial Justice Act, which allowed people of color who were on the state’s death row to overturn their convictions if it could be shown that race was used as a basis for their punishment.
- Tightened restrictions on a woman’s right to choose in numerous ways, including a tripling of the state’s waiting period for an abortion (from 24 to 72 hours) and the requirement that abortion doctors must record a fetus’s “probable gestational age” and send that information to the Department of Health and Human Services.
- Shown a disdain for popular protest in the state by having Moral Monday protesters arrested numerous times for protesting in the State Capitol. One lawmaker, State Sen. Thom Goolsby (R-Wilmington), referred to the protests as “Moron Mondays”.
- Slashing funding to public higher education to the point that the University of North Carolina System discontinued 46 majors at universities across the state, including the famed Jazz major at North Carolina Central University. Before the cuts, Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) stated that, “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine. Go to a private school, and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”
- On that last note, that brings us — of course — to the most recent crusade of the North Carolina Republican Party: ensuring that transgender citizens of the Tar Heel State are unable to use the bathroom without fear of harassment or violence. The law, named the anodyne Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act or HB2, also severely weakened employment protections and municipal autonomy for all North Carolinians.
One might think that, given the oft-professed concern for the lives of the marginalized, liberals might give the news out of Orange County little more than a shrug. Surely, no one with any notion of progressive politics would dare to do something like, say, open up a fundraiser to get a new GOP office up-and-running in the final stages of a national election, right? That would be absurd and antithetical to any notion of solidarity with the numerous victims of reactionary and oppressive public policy in North Carolina.
As it were, one David Weinberger in Brookline, Massachusetts (and of course it is a liberal from Massachusetts) decided that he would fundraise to reopen an office of the North Carolina Republican Party. In less than one hour, the fundraiser managed to net over $13,000 so that Donald Trump and his supporters in the U.S. Senate, Governor’s Mansion, Council of State, General Assembly, and the state judicial system can get right back to the work of winning elections and further destroying labor rights, anti-discrimination laws, and women’s agency in the state.
This fundraiser does nothing for the people on the ground in NC who really need help, like those in the poorest parts of the state currently dealing with flooding from Hurricane Matthew (that would be this fundraiser). It does not do anything to strengthen democratic norms and preserve fairness in our election system (you should donate to Democracy NC or the NC NAACP if you want to help with that). It does not support those who have felt the worst sting of House Bill 2, that attacked trans people and working class North Carolinians in one awful mess of a law (that would be Equality NC you should give to). It does not give strength to those organizing in Charlotte in the wake of Charlotte PD’s shooting of Keith Scott last month (that would be here for the bond fund and here for the general organizing fund). In fact, this fundraiser did the exact opposite of helping all of these causes. It funneled $13,000 into the coffers of those who would gladly see all of them wither on the vine.
And what did liberals get in return for their money? Was it a promise by Trump supporters to refrain from sucker-punching protestors? Was it a vow from the NCGOP to cease its campaign of racial voter suppression? How about a cessation of the North Carolina Republicans’ onslaught against the state’s once-proud education system? The answer to all of these is obvious, and it thus poses another question: if you support social progress, then why did you give money to a party that is actively seeking to hinder it?
That might be the greatest hypocrisy of all in this affair. All throughout the Democratic presidential primaries and this general election, leftists were told by liberals that their mistake lie in the fact that they did not work their way up from the political bottom by working for members of Congress, state legislators, and local politicos first. “You can’t just start out with the presidency,” was a refrain heard ad nauseam in the lead-up to the general election. And when Bernie Sanders’s supporters threatened to give their votes to Green Party candidate Jill Stein, the refrain intensified into a shrieking and incoherent mess. No longer satisfied to condescend to socialists as if they did not understand the American political system, they skipped to blaming disappointed Sanders supporters for the coming election of a fascist for president.
But do you know what the biggest consequence of this fundraiser will be? Down-ballot support for one of the most right-wing Republican Party units at the state level. They will probably rent an even bigger space to hold get-out-the-vote events for reactionary lawmakers. Orange County is a pretty liberal county at the federal level, so they will probably do phone banking for incumbents in more competitive Congressional seats. The biggest beneficiary of this is likely to be U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, as his district is the most competitive of any Republican Congressman in the state. You might have heard that name before….after he stated that those protesting Keith Scott’s death in Charlotte “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”
That is what the $13,000 is going towards. The ugly fact is those who gave to this fundraiser, shrieking fools like Clay Shirky and Anil Dash, support social progress but only so far as it allows them the ability to feel smug and high-minded about the state of American politics. The phrase, “they go low, we go high,” has been uttered so many times on social media in conjunction with this incident that it has lost any meaning it might have had. This fundraiser is a grand gesture made hollow by the fact that they are making it to a hate group. Giving money to the NC Republican Party in the wake of this fire does not strengthen democratic norms, because the NC Republican Party is actively trying to destroy democratic norms. Why else would they try to ram through a judicial elections law that was transparently an effort to rig the process, much less the well-documented campaign of Black voter suppression?
As Vann Newkirk and Christopher Hooks each pointed out, there is nothing binding the NC GOP from using this money in an horrifying and awful fashion. It does not have to use this money to re-open the burned county office. It can use this money for any purpose it so decides, including a further defense of voter suppression or a program of voter caging. By giving this good-sized wad of cash to the NC GOP, these assholes have made it harder for those fighting against the far-right agenda in state in the name of feeling good about themselves. This is what we meant when we wrote that American liberalism died after it retreated into culture. Instead of thinking of politics in a strategic fashion, 551 people just shoved millions of North Carolinians under the bus tonight because, as one astute tweeter put it, “it’s what my West Wing box set would have done.”
Liberals for Trump. Good Lord, this election cannot be over soon enough.