There’s a crack in the Republican wall over HB2. State Rep. Tamara Barringer is the first GOP legislator to call for its repeal. Barringer voted for the bill but is now in a tough re-election fight with Susan Evans. She’s also running in the type of suburban district where voters have less tolerance for the social conservatism that the NC GOP has embraced. They’re also the type of voters who might stay home instead of vote for Donald Trump.
Pat McCrory and the GOP seem to have latched onto HB2 as a means to energize their base. In defending HB2, they’ve embraced the language of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, bashing the press as the liberal media and casting themselves as fighting a culture war. In doing so, they are alienating voters in the fastest growing parts of the state.
It’s hard to know if McCrory is getting bad political advice or if he’s just unwittingly let himself become the face of HB2 and the discrimination it represents. While elections have become increasingly polarized and driving out the base is necessary to win in closely divided states like North Carolina, there’s still a moderate core of voters who are less partisan, less ideological, and need to be persuaded. Most of them live in districts like Barringer’s.
McCrory and the GOP blame the press for driving the issue and misrepresenting it. They want it to be about bathrooms and safety. Unfortunately for them, it’s not and everybody knows it. It’s part of a pattern of legislative overreach that discriminates against minorities and offends a growing segment of the population as well as corporate America.
The NCAA spelled out why HB2 is different than bills in other states. HB2 has broad reach to discriminate against gays and lesbians. In particular, it prevents local governments from enacting anti-discrimination ordinances that protect the LGBT community. That also doesn’t sit well with younger suburban voters in districts like Barringer’s.
Similarly, Republicans claim their voter suppression bill is about voter ID. It’s not. It’s about discrimination. The bill was carefully designed to enact measures that disproportionally affect African-American voters. Again, bills like this don’t sit well with those younger suburban voters.
Pat McCrory and the GOP like to blame the press for their ills but they’ve brought the problems down on themselves. They’ve lost credibility with reporters because their attempts at spin come off as dishonest. Nobody believes that HB2 is just about bathrooms. And we now know for a fact that the voter suppression bill wasn’t about voter fraud.
McCrory and the North Carolina GOP have lost credibility with the press and corporate America. They’ve made arguments that are patently untrue and hurt segments of the population. They may motivate their base, but they’re alienating the swing voters who decide elections. They may turn districts like Barringer’s blue.
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 >