North Carolina’s new Lt. Governor, Dan Forest, held forth in a rambling talk at a John Locke Foundation “Shaftsbury Society luncheon” earlier this week and in watching the 41 minute video one gets a real taste of the strange brew of ill-conceived and contradictory policy positions that now dominates on the modern American-Fox News-Tea Partying right.
As is often the case with many of his ideological allies, much of Forest’s talk is friendly and non-threatening. Whether he is lamenting the lousy Internet service he inherited in the Lt. Governor’s mansion or preaching that North Carolina ought to strive to be number one in the nation in K-12 education, Forest gives voice to many noncontroversial positions.
But, of course, as has been well-documented previously, Dan Forest is not just a friendly suburban architect or the semi-polished son of a former congresswoman. As NC Policy Watch reported last November, Forest is also a home-schooling. conspiracy-promoter who helped found nonprofits devoted to telling “Christian” consumers which businesses they should patronize (Sears is off limits because of the lingerie section in the catalog) and a proud champion of numerous extreme positions.
Forest’s contradictions and contradictory nature were on full display in the Locke talk. In one moment, he talked about modernizing government and the importance of valuing public employees and in the next he informed the audience that “politcal correctness” (whatever that is) has “destroyed America” and alleged that Raleigh’s News & Observer plants hidden messages in its news headlines that are designed to advance its “agenda” and that such actions somehow threaten the First Amendment.
In yet another moment he weirdly and obliviously praised comparatively liberal, secular social democracies with robust public safety nets like Norway, Sweden and New Zealand as model economies and then, in the next, claimed that North Carolina has all the natural resources it needs to be the number one state in the nation in energy production.
Forest’s talk was, in short, emblematic of the strange and disjointed worldview that now drives the modern right-wing and especially places like the Art Pope empire (a place with which Forest feels evident kinship since he called out the Locke Foundation’s lobbyist during the talk to thank her for her regular communications). That worldview can be best summed up as a confused mixture of slightly paranoid religious and economic fundamentalism gussied up with just enough modern social and technology references so as not to scare off casual observers.
Whether Forest will have much luck in playing a role in advancing his worldview in North Carolina in the near term is an open question. Forest said during the speech that he talks to Gov. McCrory every other week, but given the Governor’s own limited influence over legislation during the opening weeks of the 2013 session it’s not clear that this means a whole lot. One thing that does seem pretty clear, however, is that if you want to know what the true believers on the right are really thinking, it’s probably worth one’s time to keep paying attention to North Carolina’s new Lt. Governor.