Dan Forest hasn’t just supported HB2. He has been conductor of the crazy train. Even as Phil Berger and Tim Moore slithered toward repeal, our Lieutenant Governor has stood fast with the NC Family Policy Council and other anti-LGBT ultras. He’s also running for governor next cycle.
Believe it or not, there is a logic to this.
You could be forgiven for skepticism. Ceteris paribus, Forest should face daunting odds. Only four out of forty-two presidential-year gubernatorial challengers have won since 1992. HB2 helped add Cooper to the sparsely populated win column, and it would seem odd for Forest to deepen his own disadvantage.
Odd, but not inexplicable. First, Forest is a zealot. There’s no social-conservative cause for which he won’t fight with the fervor of a warrior-priest. So much so that he openly said that half a billion dollars were a just price to keep this law on the books. To walk away from HB2 now would to be betray his political identity and, apparently, his far-right moral conscience. He will never back down.
His burning reactionary heart is complimented by cold, political calculation. Forest is a pure base-mobilization candidate. With his views on the full display that a gubernatorial race would place them, he could not expect to win many persuadables. Victory would depend on getting his religious base angry and activated. And nothing would do that like the phantom fear of bathroom perfidy.
In a sense, Forest sits where McCrory ended up last fall: Painted into a social-issues corner, unable to escape the controversy of HB2. The difference is that Forest wants to be there. It could make him look principle, or brand him as even more toxic and extreme than he already is. I’d bet on the latter.