Actions speak louder than words

by | Sep 6, 2016 | Editor's Blog, NC Politics, Voting Rights | 15 comments

“A review of these documents shows that North Carolina GOP leaders launched a meticulous and coordinated effort to deter black voters.”

The Washington Post, 9/2/16

The Washington Post’s expose’ on the voter suppression law passed by Republicans in North Carolina evokes the memory of Lee Atwater. Atwater was the GOP strategist from South Carolina who perfected using dog whistles to attract racists to the Republican Party, including the Willie Horton ad that torpedoed Mike Dukakis’ presidential campaign.  In a 1981 interview, Atwater described his strategy:

You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’”

The Post article makes clear that “voter fraud” is the GOP’s most recent incarnation of Atwater’s strategy. The so-called “fraud” is too many black voters but nobody can call “protecting the integrity of elections,” as Republicans say, racist. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Washington Post article laid waste to the GOP claims of voter fraud. The voter suppression law passed by Republican leaders was carefully researched and designed to target African-Americans. There was no voter fraud. The only frauds are the Republicans who say there is.

Some Republicans are coming clean. Conservative columnist Peder Zane wrote recently, “GOP claims that they were nobly seeking to curb voter fraud were fraudulent.” GOP strategist Carter Wrenn told the Post, “Of course it’s political. Why else would you do it?”

Given the history of the South, and North Carolina in particular, the law is despicable. African-Americans were systematically stripped of their right to vote at the turn of the 20th century and only earned it back through a Civil Rights Movement that cost dozens of lives. The people most affected by the law are elderly African-Americans—people who only gained the right to vote in the 1960s and now are being denied it at the end of their lives. It’s a cruel and callous law.

Rep. David Lewis, one of the architects of the bill, is offended by people who suggest that he and supporters of the law are racist. Well, then he should stop supporting voter suppression tactics that target African-Americans. Until then, he should remember the old adage that actions speak louder than words.

When Atwater was dying of cancer in 1991, he apologized for his actions. He was trying to get right with God. Maybe the GOP leadership in North Carolina should follow this example, too.


  1. A D Reed

    I just reread this article to catch up on recent comments, and I realized that Mr. Mills made a very, very good suggestion right at the end. He concludes:

    When Atwater was dying of cancer in 1991, he apologized for his actions. He was trying to get right with God. Maybe the GOP leadership in North Carolina should follow this example, too.

    I agree. I think the GOP leadership in North Carolina should follow Atwater’s example and all die of cancer. Pronto. A.S.A.P. Stat.

    • Ebrun

      More hate talk from the radical left. Civil debate is not an option.

      • A D Reed

        I gave up on civil debate when I started reading your posts and hearing the Donald and McCrory spout their endless lies. I realized then that, for sure, the rules of debate, of civility, and of fundamental fact-based honesty had been tossed out the window by you people, and that the only language you were capable of understanding was a response in kind. For everyone else I use rational, fact-based, logical, probative statements; for you I use snark — because I know that it’s above your head to recognize it.

        PS: This is a snide, sarcastic, snarky comment, ebrun. It is not a serious statement of philosophy, belief or behavior. It is returning the type of personal insult that you hurl so constantly, only at a higher level of education and with a deeper understanding of irony.

        Don’t try to fool yourself that I’m part of the “radical left.” I’m what would be called a ConservaDem, a middle-of-the-road, traditional, patriotic, civic-minded Democrat who believes in the Constitution and the system of government checks and balances, and in our government as the best check and balance against the concentrated power of corporate entities and self-serving billionaires.

        But I realize that you’re incapable of challenging an individual based on who he or she actually is and believes, and therefore you take comfort in lumping everyone who calls you out into some vague construct of a movement that doesn’t exist. I oppose Trmp, Gowdy, Chavetz, McCrory, Tillis and the like because of their ideology and policies: I oppose you for your ignorance and ideology and preference for made-up stuff over actual facts.

        Don’t take offense just because you don’t get it.


        • Apply Liberally

          A.D. : Having gone back and forth with Ebrun so many times, including citing his harsh stereotyping, closed-mindedness, ad hominems, deflections/diversions, etc, I think your response to him was smack-on. Thank you!

          • A D Reed

            TY, A.L. I’d hoped for smack-down, but smack-on is good. Like a bronze instead of a gold, eh?

            PS: Ebrun: This, too, is sarcasm. I don’t really want to smack you down like WWF “reality” wrestling. Just want to see you trip over your untied shoelaces and take a pratfall.

            And no, Ebrun, it’s not “hate speech” to make a sarcastic comment like that. I do want you to understand that you should not misuse terms you don’t understand.

  2. Ebrun

    “Bat shit nuts?” Wow, you really know how to turn a phrase, D.G. LOL

    BTW, latest two statewide polls show McCrory up by two and three. He should send a thank note to the ACC for trying to influence a state election.

  3. Walt de Vries, Ph.D.

    I knew Lee over a good many years and he was open and hard-nosed about his version of the Southern Strategy. That strategy was first revealed and implemented as a campaign strategy during the 1964 Goldwater presidential campaign. The fight during the platform committee and convention floor debates was about as nasty as it could be. Governor George Romney (I served as his Executive Assistant), Governor Rockefeller, along with other moderate GOP officeholders who attended the convention, clearly understood the strategy (including Goldwater’s vote against the civil rights bill). They fought it and lost.
    But, the point is no matter what you call it: “state’s rights,” or voter fraud it is the same Southern strategy. I am sure Atwater would agree. To me, Lee was a brilliant campaign strategist with this one tragic and fatal flaw for which he sought redemption on his death bed. Sad. But it is also a awful example for those who still believe that this voter suppression legislation is new and needed. It is nothing but the same old Atwater plan to win elections–no matter the consequences.

    • Ebrun

      If you can’t say anything nice about the dead, then go ahead and vilify them. One can score an easy slam dunk that way since there’s no way they can rise from the grave to defend their reputations.

      • Apply Liberally

        That was truly one of your most childish and inane posts ever, Ebrun. Which takes some doing, given your track record….

        • Ebrun

          A.L., calling out hypocrisy is hard to swallow, especially if the shoe fits. You provide a prime example.

          • Apply Liberally

            Your mix of metaphors is a mess. But take heart; as a high school sophomore, you might soon benefit from that English class you’re taking….

        • Ebrun

          D.g, I wasn’t trying to yank your chain on this thread. But once again, you’re over-the-top reaction provides a noxious example of hate speech.

  4. Progressive Wing

    The article clearly indicates that that those were quotes from emails.

    So I wonder why you’d ask whether the WP made those quotes up? Are you trying to discredit the Post or their story??

    Unlike some news sources nowadays, the WP still abides by the highest journalistic and AP standards. If it’s in quotes, you can be assured that they had the communications or documents in hand and they didn’t just “make it up.”

  5. Maurice

    The article cited provides these quotes: “’Is there any way to get a breakdown of the 2008 voter turnout, by race (white and black) and type of vote (early and Election Day)?’” a staffer for the state’s Republican-controlled legislature asked in January 2012.”

    The article states that in April 2013, a top aide to the Republican House speaker asked for “a breakdown, by race, of those registered voters in your database that do not have a driver’s license number.”

    Did the Washington Post make up these quoted statements, or is the WaPost just reporting the words that were used?

    • A D Reed

      I believe those quotations were also cited in the ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which used them as evidence to support its ruling that the Republican Party specifically asked for the racial breakdown of various types of voting patterns and “targeted them with almost surgical precision” to suppress the black vote.

      The WaPo may have terribly misleading headlines sometimes, and may spend far too much energy attacking Hillary Clinton and far too little investigating the unending lies and corruption of the GOP, but it does still have enough journalistic integrity not to make up quotations (unlike most media outlets that serve the right wing).

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