Conservatives in North Carolina have been wrestling for some time with how to handle protesters, particularly of the Moral Monday variety. Writing blistering editorials which mocked them as “Moron Mondays” didn’t work. Giving them delicious freshly baked cookies backfired horribly. It seemed that no matter where they turned, conservative policymakers were surrounded by angry liberals, led by a master showman, Reverend Barber, and an adoring media that breathlessly reported on his every move.
Now, it seems that a new group, Carolina Rising, has figured it all out. The solution? Co-opt the Moral Monday rallies by holding up signs touting the state’s falling unemployment rate, dressing up in sun costumes, distributing stress-release balls that look like little suns to which read “Jobs up unemployment down”, and handing out Sunny Delight and orange soda to thirsty protesters.
Dallas Woodhouse, who formerly headed the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity, is the group’s president and says they just want to spread good cheer and “a little sunshine.” Given the gloomy outlook held by those protesting the legislature and Gov. McCrory, this is a noble endeavor on the part of Woodhouse and truly a kind-hearted gesture.
Upon receiving this good news concerning the Carolina Comeback, you would think Reverend Barber and the NAACP would “see the light”, tell their followers to pack it up, return to their jobs, and endorse Thom Tillis for U.S. Senate. Instead, NAACP security ordered Woodhouse and co. to leave, saying he didn’t have a park permit and that the NAACP had the exclusive right to the grounds.
It would have been interesting if Woodhouse had instead chosen to remain where he was in an act of civil disobedience and was hauled away in handcuffs, but he and his group complied and left the premises, taking their bottles of Sunny Delight with them, no doubt rejected by liberal activists because of its gluten content. Woodhouse, a bit sore over this incident, wrote an open letter to Barber expressing hope that he and his group would be treated better in the future.
Of course, Woodhouse’s group had no real hope of converting liberal protesters. They had as much intent in doing so as Reverend Barber does in trying to persuade Republican legislators, which is to say, none. Indeed, the participants at the protest did not take kindly to Woodhouse’s presence; they glared at him and one elderly woman sitting under a shady tree looked like she could have “incinerated him with her eyes.”
In a twist of irony, Moral Monday organizers will have to learn to deal with their own counter-protests, whose true aim isn’t to engage them in a policy discussion or to win hearts and minds, but to cause disruption and to get media attention. Over a year removed from the first Moral Monday, conservatives are finally learning how to beat them at their own game.
John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.