A question I’ve been contemplating lately is whether Mark Robinson will ever become so drenched in unadulterated strangeness that it begins to tarnish his Republican allure. Hate, manifestly, is not disqualifying for North Carolina Republicans. After all, the party still defines itself in reference to the legacy of one Jesse Helms, who referred to African American neighborhoods as “Mudville.” But Robinson’s extremism goes quite a bit further than sordid appeals to bigoted ids. If stories about his full membership in the Kook Community continue to arise, Republican leaders may have to reconsider their enthusiasm about this radical insurgent.
Robinson is no stranger to news-making. Indeed, the full basis of his political appeal rests upon a Trumpian ability to command attention from media outlets and the Republican base. He’s a press hound. And his ever-present profile seems poised to rise just a bit further with speculation–serious or not–from Fox News and the hack-i-fied Carolina Journal that Donald Trump should consider ol’ Mark for the running-mate’s spot on the presidential ticket. It didn’t take long for Robinson is reach the B-list rung on the political status hierarchy, and some leading Republicans seem inexplicably eager to promote him to the elite.
So. Somewhat surprisingly, the North Carolina Republican establishment has congealed in unity around the candidacy of Mark Robinson. Faint whispers of concern may be detected on the more moderate fringes of the donor class, but most Berger-Moore Republicans are delighted with Robinson and eager to go forward with his candidacy. One particularly cynical political consultant derided Mark’s critics as “desperately irrelevant,” and I’m afraid he is exactly right. Even the less flamboyant members of the party seem to be putting up minimal resistance against the advance of the Robinson juggernaut.
But one must question whether this is a trend that can continue forever. Robinson is, inarguably, the most extreme candidate to run for North Carolina governor since the bloody dawn of the modern era in 1900. While radicalism has never prevented a Republican candidate from winning the nomination, even nominees such as Jim Gardner and Dan Forest lacked Mark Robinson’s florid mind and bizarre predilection for conspiracy theories. Forest’s anxiety about the lingerie section of Target’s customer catalog seems like a trivial neurosis compared to the 9/11-Truther, lizard-person imagination of Lieutenant Governor Robinson.
Did I say lizard person? You did not misread it, and I did not misspeak. In a recent Huffington Post article, reporting revealed that Mark Robinson has often toyed with the idea that a consortium of super-smart reptile-people secretly controls the world from a headquarters…god knows where. This is a surprisingly common trope among conspiracy theorists, and Robinson’s interest in the notion demonstrates his deep immersion in the realm of alternative realities. Republicans seem poised to nominate someone who could easily be spotted at a meeting of the Flat Earth Society (a real group). As governor, he might even give them tax incentives to relocate to North Carolina.
Even if Robinson denies this particular eccentricity, voters will still be treated to the spectacle of a Republican nominee discussing lizard people. Pragmatic leaders must have some deeply buried anxiety about this large and strange gentleman leading their party’s ticket. And the Republicans have two eminently mainstream candidates running for governor, either of whom could be tabbed as the establishment horse and endowed with the financial support to compete with Mark. The trouble is that establishment Republicans despise Mark Walker (god knows why) and everyone in North Carolina seems entirely indifferent to the person of Dale Folwell.
Or perhaps it’s something else. Perhaps the Republican Party has become so dependent upon a base of ferociously conservative white people that any resistance to Mark Robinson seems futile. Robinson’s approval ratings among Republican voters are imposing and formidable. He commands, in the context of a GOP primary election, a degree of loyalty from core Republicans that even Donald Trump no longer enjoys. Rendering a sober review of the party landscape, GOP leaders seem to have concluded that Robinson’s nomination is unpreventable. “What the hell,” they’re saying, “let’s see how this goes.”
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.