Donald Trump is coming to North Carolina again. This time, he’s coming to rally the troops for Sen. Dan Bishop in the special election in NC-09. Last time he was in the state, he drew national attention when the crowd started chanting “Send her back!” after he mentioned Rep. Ihlan Omar of Minnesota. This time, he’ll try to wake up his base to the polls in an election where early voting has already begun.
Bishop and Trump are good fits for each other. Both appeal to the basest instincts of people to rally support and gain attention. Trump’s rhetoric has brought white nationalists and racists out of the shadows. Bishop has played on bigotry by introducing the politically motivated HB2, otherwise known as the bathroom bill, and financially supporting Gab, the white supremacist version of twitter.
A poll out this week shows why Trump is coming to the 9th Congressional District and why his divisive rhetoric might help Bishop. The president is underwater with almost every demographic except non-college educated white voters and the 9th District is full of them.
Anson, Richmond, Scotland, Bladen, and Robeson Counties are among the poorest in the state and those hit hardest by trade agreements. They watched the textile industry leave the area for other countries and nothing came to replace it. Instead, they were left with an aging and largely obsolete infrastructure. The population is aging and dying. Younger educated residents leave and never come back. They’re being replaced by Hispanic immigrants who’ve come to work in low-skilled, mostly agricultural jobs.
Resentment and frustration run high and non-college white voters live vicariously through Trump. He says out loud what they’ve been thinking for years. They resent the new immigrants who are changing the demographics and the culture. While protestant churches shutter as parishioners die off, Catholic churches that have long struggled have new congregations of people who don’t speak much English. Tiendas open in shuttered downtowns offering goods foreign to most of the residents who’ve been there for generations. The “Send her back!” chants could apply to the whole population of immigrants and they’ve been wanting to scream it for years.
Dan Bishop plays off these resentments, fearmongering over men using women’s bathrooms and accusing his opponent, Dan McCready of supporting socialism and sanctuary cities. Like most Republicans, Bishop has dropped most of his traditional values and adopted the populism that includes supporting tariffs, trillion dollar deficits and the federal government overriding local control. His message is one of fear designed to manipulate uneducated voters with the boogie men of violent immigrants stealing their way of life.
Bishop’s not offering voters a message of hope or proposing any solutions to the problems that face the district. He’s just trying to feed off the deep-seeded resentment that’s already there. Trump’s the perfect messenger. His goal is to literally scare his supporters to the polls. In a low-turnout special election, it might work.
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 >