Conservatives in the United States are fond of launching wars. Since 2010 the largely Tea Party-backed Republican Party has launched wars on workers, wars on women and wars on the poor, all draped with the stars and stripes and often times bearing a cross on its back.
Yet despite the socially and economically divisive attacks on populist causes such as equal pay in the workplace, collective bargaining or New Deal social safety nets, few conservative efforts to undermine American culture in pursuit of a corporate run theocracy have been quite as direct or aggressive as the newest round of GOP voter suppression efforts. Among these, none have been quite as egregious as those underway in North Carolina.
Using the repeatedly debunked claims that the efforts are aimed at reducing voter fraud (which has been shown consistently to be mostly a matter of conservative myth,) North Carolina has become ground zero in the Republican party’s continuing efforts to secure electoral victories by way of gaming the elections themselves. Whether it’s creative redistricting to marginalize opposition votes, the mandate requiring government-issued photo identification for voting or their general reduction in ballot accessibility and the time allowed to cast a vote, North Carolina conservatives, with the help of a substantial out-of-state financial backing, have proven tireless in their efforts to ensure the continuation of democracy happens only on their terms.
At the center of most of this is a man named Art Pope. Pope, who previously served as governor Pat McCrory’s budget director, has been instrumental in these voter suppression efforts, serving as what some describe as the “architect of the conservative takeover.” Possessing a substantial personal fortune, largely inherited by way of the discount retail chain left to him by his father, Pope has become something of a conservative king-maker, plying his financial and political clout in the conservative quest to crowd out the poor, the working classes, people of color and anyone else who does not fit the conservative archetype of a competitive capitalist patriot.
The voter suppression tactics themselves are among the most comprehensive election engineering attempts to date, focusing on a multifaceted approach to silencing the desperate masses of real citizens, by mixing traditional voter ID laws with the creative redistricting commonly referred to as “gerrymandering.” Adding to this mix, a long-fought effort by Pope and his cohorts to eliminate public financing for judicial elections which previously served to balance out the moneyed influence of the ultra wealthy and corporate elites, was finally won during his time as Gov. McCrory’s budget director.
All of these efforts, as well as a purposeful set of reforms to polling location regulations and hours, absentee ballots and the elimination of same day voter registration, seem primed to allow the already unpopular policies of North Carolina’s current GOP majority to carry even further, shifting revenues from public services into tax cuts for the wealthy and eliminating the social safety nets of food stamps and unemployment extensions.
The overreaching of these corporate backed oligarchs has gotten so great that it’s even largely served to bridge the divide between the generally secular progressives and religious institutions throughout the state, leading to a series of highly publicized weekly protests known as “Moral Mondays.”
Typical as they may be and as easy as it can become to write off or shrug away these latest disgusting efforts to undermine the political nature of the republic, many are warning that North Carolina is not likely to be the end of these right wing assaults on democracy. With voter ID and election reform laws being proposed in states across the nation and with the ever present scourge of partisan redistricting serving as a constant threat to the fading legitimacy of our civic process, the GOP war on democracy seems to be gaining steam, even as the party itself experiences increasing divisions from within its own, already irrational ranks.
(h/t: Bill Moyers)