In North Carolina, Some Democrats See Their Grim Future

The GOP’s moves have many on the left worried their bare-knuckle tactics will spread nationally.

The road to political morass began six years ago in North Carolina, when national Republican donors and strategists launched a concerted effort to create a bulwark against the emerging multiracial, center-left coalition that swept Barack Obama into the White House. They sank millions of dollars into cheaply bought local and state races, seizing control of the statehouse for the first time since a now-unrecognizable Republican Party that supported racial integration and voting rights for African-Americans held it during Reconstruction.

.. the new Republican majority gerrymandered districts in which Democrats couldn’t win—which resulted in ever-more-hard-line conservatives winning primaries in each election.

.. Only a third of North Carolina’s registered voters were Republicans, but McCrory and his allies in the legislature ruled as if it were a one-party state—cracking down on abortion, slashing social services and banning state officials from considering climate change when planning development along the state’s vulnerable coastline. It didn’t matter how many would-be voters this angered, because the redrawn districts guaranteed Republican supermajorities in the statehouse and U.S. Congress.

.. Legislators also took advantage of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rollback of the Voting Rights Act to restrict voting in black and other Democratic-leaning communities. When voters unseated McCrory and chose the Democratic attorney general, Roy Cooper, to be governor this fall, the Republican legislature greeted him with a slate of new laws stripping his powers and handing them to the legislature and Republican-controlled agencies.

.. Progressives and moderates watching across the country have been horrified about the evolution of a resolutely purple state into a hard-core bastion of untouchable conservative power—and what that might portend for a country where Donald Trump is in the White House and Republicans will control both chambers of Congress, the Supreme Court and 32 state legislatures—25 of which will have Republicans at the helm of all three branches of government.

.. Much as segregationists had used fears of racially integrated bathrooms as a cudgel during the civil rights era, fear-mongering about the specter of transgender people—imagined by many small-town conservatives to be mostly perverts and deviants

.. “How many fathers are now going to be forced to go to the ladies’ room to make sure their little girls aren’t molested?”

Why Hasn’t the Republican Party Collapsed?

We shouldn’t be asking whether the GOP is falling apart. We ought to be wondering why it isn’t.

The parties have historically been structured to accommodate racism and racial conflict. Neither one was created with our current norms about racial equality in mind. If a new party were founded today, we might expect that it would have goals like addressing racial inequality or income inequality in a modern economy, or developing a workable immigration system. Both parties have some ideas about these things, but they’re often shoehorned into policy and ideological agendas inherited from years ago. New issues are often foisted onto coalitions

.. Geography and state representation still play a role in the American political system. But when the first conventions were held, New York had a population of about 200,000. A system developed today might do even more to represent Americans by age, gender or ethnic background

.. yoking together seemingly unrelated ideas—gun control, tax reform and health care, for example—in ways that make it impossible for any of them to move forward

.. as the Democratic coalition has become more diverse and reliant on voters who are people of color, Democratic state parties have run into some criticism for celebrating Jefferson-Jackson Day—usually an annual fundraising gala that celebrates two historic, slave-owning Democrats, hosted by a party that now prides itself on embracing racial equality.

.. The Democrats have long been a party of process. The early party included members who disagreed on slavery, westward expansion and tariffs.

.. The Republican Party, meanwhile, has long been a party of ideology, created in the 1850s with a much more specific guiding principle in mind: stopping the expansion of slavery. Ever since, that difference—one party, a pragmatic alliance; the other, an ideological one—has meant that the Republican Party is more prone to ideological fights blowing up into potential existential crises.

.. The Republican Party, meanwhile, has long been a party of ideology, created in the 1850s with a much more specific guiding principle in mind: stopping the expansion of slavery. Ever since, that difference—one party, a pragmatic alliance; the other, an ideological one—has meant that the Republican Party is more prone to ideological fights blowing up into potential existential crises.

.. In the 1890s, the party emerged from a struggle over economic policy with a populist agenda and presidential candidate—William Jennings Bryan, who would win the party’s presidential nomination for the first of three times in 1896.

.. In 1948, Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey (then running for a U.S. Senate seat) and FDR’s own successor, Harry Truman, saw the possibility of bringing together moral principles and electoral gain by making the Democrats the party of civil rights. This didn’t go over well with everyone. Civil rights drove a wedge straight through the party’s North-South coalition.

.. a group of moderate Democrats organized under the banner of the Democratic Leadership Council to promote an approach to governing that was neither liberal nor conservative, but rather a “third way.” This movement culminated with the presidency of Bill Clinton, whose support for traditionally Republican stances like welfare reform led some on the left to question what the Democratic Party stood for at all.

.. the surprise success of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign suggests some pent-up demand for a more ideologically committed Democratic Party devoted to clearer principles of social provision, income equality and a noninterventionist foreign policy.


Conservatives Have Groomed the Perfect Suckers for Trump’s Epic Scam

There have been ex-presidents who have enriched themselves by dubious means, as the George Bushes and Bill Clinton have by giving high-dollar speeches to plutocrats. But there has never been a presidential nominee whose primary raison d’être is to make money, and who has organized his or her campaign around that goal.

.. In a sense, conservative voters have been groomed for Trump since the 1960s. As the historian Rick Perlstein wrote in The Baffler and The Nation in 2012, the American conservative movement has become more and more amenable to get-rich-quick schemes, snake-oil salesmen, and confidence men. Direct-mail barons like Richard Viguerie began raking in the dough in the 1960s by stirring up ideological hysteria and convincing an audience of senior citizens that only their small-dollar donation could fend off union bosses, abortionists, and gays. Of course, most of the money ended up with the fundraisers.

.. Conservative ideology, as Perlstein persuasively argues, is particularly vulnerable to grifters because of its faith in the goodness of business and its concomitant hostility toward regulation—which makes it easy for true believers to buy into the notion that some modern Edison has a miraculous new invention that the Washington elite is conniving to suppress.

.. There’s another factor at work here: The anti-intellectualism that has been a mainstay of the conservative movement for decades also makes its members easy marks. After all, if you are taught to believe that the reigning scientific consensuses on evolution and climate change are lies, then you will lack the elementary logical skills that will set your alarm bells ringing when you hear a flim-flam artist like Trump. The Republican “war on science” is also a war on the intellectual habits needed to detect lies.

.. Writing in the New Republic in 2014, the journalist Ben Adler documented how an entire class of Republican politicians, including Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Mike Huckabee, used mailing lists built up in their presidential campaigns to sell dubious products afterward.

.. In Cain’s case, anyone who gave money to his campaign would get ads, after the campaign ended, promising a “breakthrough” remedy for erectile dysfunction, “one of more than 50 similar pitches for miracle cures and easy-money tricks that Cain has passed along to his e-mail followers.”

.. Cain made more than $420,000 from e-mail ads in 2013—minus Newsmax’s cut and the costs of maintaining his list.

.. By the time Trump launched his campaign, the conservative movement had already destroyed the intellectual immune system that is necessary to resist grifters.

.. Could the people who have been conditioned to think they need to buy the Patriot Power Generator in order to fight off an ISIS attack on America’s power grid really be expected to see through Donald Trump? Conservative publications like National Reviewhave spent a generation cultivating an audience of gulls. Now they’re shocked that a far more talented hustler has stolen them away.