Richard Burr’s Politics of Fear

by | Oct 27, 2016 | Campaigns, National Politics, Politics, Republicans, US Senate | 7 comments

To the surprise of few, Richard Burr’s “moderation” turns out to be a mask. Faced with his first real political threat, he has chosen the way of decades of demagogues. Not for him are bipartisanship and affable pragmatism. No: In Burrworld, fear-mongering appears to be the coin of the realm.

True, the NRSC never made many bones about this strategy. We all knew that they would emphasize Deborah Ross’s decades-old ACLU eccentricities. But the Burr campaign has taken this reprehensible approach to an extreme. Their whole message seeks to activate feelings of dread and paint Deborah Ross not just as wrong, but as a menace. Contrary to Burr’s image, nothing about his campaign has been “even-tempered.”

Consider the sheer range of his dark insinuations. The attacks on Ross’s sex-offender registry almost register as old news. Since introducing that issue, Burr’s henchmen have presented Ross as an apologist for rapists, a person whose critique of post-9/11 civil liberties abuses (which included torture, something Burr jokes about) as evidence that she does not deplore terrorists, and an advocate for—welcome back to the 90’s—flag burners. An ubiquitous online banner claims that Ross thinks “flag burning is right.” These attacks plumb the emotional depths of voters who the Burr campaign clearly does not respect.

There is a certain amateurishness to all this.The one-dimensional campaign he’s running speaks to Burr’s softness as a politician. He entered this race unprepared, because he has nothing to say for himself. So he’s pursuing a campaign of sloppy and hamfisted attacks on his opponent. Despite two decades in Washington, the substantive side of politics still escapes him.

It’s deplorable. And it may not work.


  1. Jay Ligon

    A sitting judge in Santa Rosa, CA, used the facts of a heinous criminal case to smear her opponent who had been the head of the Office of Public Defenders. The sitting judge implied, of course, that the public defender somehow supported the acts of the criminal when, in fact, the court appointed him to provide a Constitutionally-required defense. After her flyers were seen by her colleagues, the sitting judge was immediately removed from hearing criminal cases, and they issued a public statement condemning the serious breach of professional ethics. The voters put the former public defender in office a few months later.

    To conflate the duty of loyalty that a lawyer owes to the client with a personal endorsement of the client’s worst conduct is dishonest, opportunistic and cynical. Sen. Burr’s ad uses the worst kind of cynicism in an effort to present a false picture of his opponent to an presumably uninformed electorate. His dishonesty should be enough to disqualify him.

    The ACLU has a history of taking unpopular cases where an important constitutional right must be defended, and they make an easy target as a result of taking hard cases. Sen. Burr does not mention that Ross was a Duke Law professor or a tax litigator or that she has not worked for the ACLU since 2002. Smears do not work unless the allegations sound odious.

    Only the most disturbed right wing nuts would believe that Deborah Ross stands for unfettered freedom for rampaging sex offenders and promiscuous flag burning across the state. Sen. Burr’s ads target idiots, and he underestimates the intelligence of his North Carolina constituency. Let us pray he has miscalculated.

    • Mike R

      That sounds familiar. Hmm, who could it be… Oh yeah! Mrs. Clinton, who was appointed to represent an alleged child rapist, in 1975. Yes, he plead guilty, but she was doing her sworn duty as his lawyer.

  2. Someone from Main Street

    Republican voters seem to relish lies, innuendo and insults. It’s awful. I hope the Democrats sweep it all this year.

    • Maurice

      If the latest Sienna College and Quinnipiac polls of NC’s senate race are correct showing Clinton ahead by 5 in NC, Burr will be swept out of office because Charlie Cook says that 4-5 points is the highest Clinton-win percent that Burr can withstand. However, if the October 14-16 Survey USA and CNN polls are correct with Clinton only winning by 1, then Burr will remain in office. What will happen to Burr if Clinton wins by 2.5 points in NC?

      • Chuck

        The race has changed since that Cook assessment. The assessments of the TV advertisements above is accurate and drawn this race to a near tie. Thus, any victory by Clinton, particularly with the strength of her GOTV effort, may cook Burr’s goose. I for one certainly hope so. We are an evenly divided state and should not be represented by two such unspectacular Republican political hacks.

  3. Troy

    Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989).

  4. Apply Liberally

    The Burr ads are disgusting, full of innuendo and B.S.

    The big difference I see in the Burr and Ross ads is this: Ross ads present video of a candidate who is smiling, talking, looking the voter in the eye, interacting with people, being excited and driven in her beliefs, and actually walking around. In Burr ads, there are no shots of him walking, talking, or interacting. Only still photo shots are offered. The only time you hear Burr’s voice is in the required ending tagline (“I’m Richard Burr and I support this message.”)
    The ads reflect the candidates to a t. One (Ross) active, energetic, passionate and compassionate. The other (Burr) distant, dimly lit, stiff, unmoving (and unmoved), and, well, bored.

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