If you want to see the forces that created Donald Trump, watch North Carolina. In 2013, the GOP took over control of state government. Almost immediately, the forces of reaction that had been kept in check for almost 50 were unleashed. Instead of trying to temper them, control them or reject them, the Republican establishment turned a blind eye and accommodated them. Now, they’ve created uncertainty and instability in a state that used to be seen as a model of moderation for the country.
In exchange for the tax and spending cuts of supply-side economics, the free-marketeers stayed silent as the reactionary wing started imposing its will. Nobody from the old establishment spoke up when they started passing discriminatory legislation. There was silence when the legislature passed an “anti-Sharia law” clearly designed to stir animosity toward Muslims. Nobody spoke against the steady drumbeat of anti-LGBT legislation that has drawn criticism from across the country. And they even played along with the discriminatory voter suppression laws when the GOP legislature claimed to be combatting non-existent voter fraud.
For native Southerners, none of these sentiments are new or even surprising. We’ve just kept them in check in North Carolina since the days of Jim Crow. Now, with their silence and complicity, the movement conservatives who rationalized that the importance of their ideals justified their unholy alliance with the reactionaries of the Old South have unleashed these forces on the country, and North Carolina, again.
In reality, the conservative movement is not sustainable by itself. The tenets appeal to far too few people, mostly free-market ideologues and rich people who want to hold onto to their wealth for generations. Too survive, they’ve had to ally with reactionary forces and rationalize that the anti-abortion, anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant, pro-gun, anti-government and, now, openly white nationalist crowd wasn’t really rooted in racism.
They were wrong. In North Carolina, the movement conservatives still have their head in the sand. They’re still defending the voter suppression laws as protecting the integrity of elections. They’re still blaming the furor over HB2 on the Charlotte City Council. They don’t even mention the anti-Sharia law legislation.
Donald Trump isn’t an accident. He is a culmination. The conservative movement that began with Barry Goldwater and peaked with Ronald Reagan is all but dead. It’s been usurped by its allies, the alt-right crowd that believes white people are victims. Trump is the personification of the reactionaries’ victory over the Republican establishment.
In North Carolina, the movement conservatives are still trying accommodation.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >