The very public face of Republicans in North Carolina

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North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson speaks about the “North Carolina Public Education Indoctrination” report during a press conference at the Legislative Building on August 24, 2021.

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“This is not who we are.”

Six relatively simple words.

Why won’t the Republicans in North Carolina say them – or, better yet, act on them?

North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, the state’s top Republican elected official, once again made obnoxious remarks about LGBTQ + people during a sermon in Winston-Salem on November 14. In the sermon, which was posted on YouTube, Robinson said heterosexual couples are “superior” to gay couples and compared being gay to “what cows leave behind” as well as maggots and to flies.

It comes after Robinson, who is slated to run for governor in 2024, called “transgender” and homosexuality “filth” in a video recently released in June – comments the White House called ” disgusting ”and prompted some state Democrats to call for his resignation. Robinson’s party members, however, chose to apologize for his comments, saying he was referring to books, not LGBTQ + people themselves.

And last week, United States Representative Madison Cawthorn hailed the acquittal by a Wisconsin jury of Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old white vigilante who shot three men, killing two, at a demonstration in Kenosha. Last year. Cawthorn offered an internship at Rittenhouse and told his followers to “be armed, be dangerous and be moral” on Instagram on Friday. Of course, this is not surprising from Cawthorn, who allegedly helped plan the events of January 6 and warned of “bloodshed” if our elections “continue to be stolen”.

What do North Carolina Republicans have to say about this? You can probably guess: nothing.

A hate-spitting lieutenant governor and a US congressman who openly incites violence seems like the sort of thing reasonable people – or a political party – would want to distance themselves from. The same seems to be true of state lawmakers who were allegedly members of a right-wing militant group, and the new NC House member who apparently himself witnessed the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

But rather than condemn such moral bankruptcy, Republicans in North Carolina are letting it become their hallmark. They conscientiously excuse – and even embrace – the behavior of insurgents and fanatics, disgusting as they are, and sit idly by as their party’s ugliest voices grow louder. At best, it’s complicity; at worst, it’s competition.

This “party first, principles second” approach is one of the main reasons people like Cawthorn and Robinson have a platform. Republicans haven’t stopped people on the fringes of their party from slipping into the mainstream over the years – and once they realized he could win the election, they huddled even more, giving up everything they once stood for in the process.

Of course, there are Republicans who criticize what has become of their party. But they’re hard to find, and more often than not they leave the office or have already left it. On the whole, those who want to stay in power choose to look away; after all, those who break out of the mold are often punished. Case in point: When the US senator from North Carolina voted to remove the former president for incitement to insurgency, his party unanimously voted to censor him.

This could explain why no Republican member of the North Carolina congressional delegation voted to censor Representative Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) for posting an animated video of him killing a Democratic congressman and d assault President Joe Biden.

There is little room for moral ambiguity when it comes to fanaticism and violence: either you support it or you don’t. It’s hard to say whether Republicans actually subscribe to their colleagues’ line of thinking, but it’s what they say and do publicly that matters – the silent onlooker at least shares some guilt with the bully.

It is the very public face of Republicans in North Carolina. They show voters who they are. Now, as a state and as a country, we have to decide who we want to be.

BEHIND OUR REPORTING

What is the Editorial Board?

The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer Editorial Boards combined in 2019 to provide our readers with more comprehensive and diverse opinion-oriented content on North Carolina. The Editorial Board operates independently of the Charlotte and Raleigh newsrooms and does not influence the work of the reporting and editorial teams. The Combined Board of Directors is chaired by NC Opinion Editor-in-Chief Peter St. Onge, who is joined in Raleigh by Opinion Deputy Editor-in-Chief Ned Barnett and Opinion Writer Sara Pequeño and in Charlotte by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Kevin Siers; and opinion piece writer Paige Masten. Board members also include McClatchy’s Vice President of Local News Robyn Tomlin, Observer Editor Rana Cash, News & Observer Editor Bill Church and longtime News columnist. & Observe Barry Saunders. For any questions about the board or our editorials, email [email protected]

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