Editorial blasts NC GOP “Freedom Caucus” for spreading election misinformation

Rep. Jeff McNeely

In case you missed it yesterday, be sure to check out the News & Observer editorial entitled “NC Republicans aren’t fooling anyone with dig at Durham elections.”

As the essay rightfully points out, the recent announcement by a handful of GOP lawmakers led by Rep. Jeff McNeely that they would attempt to undertake a self-styled “inspection” of Durham County voting machines is an embarrassing exercise in looniness.

After patiently explaining the fact that North Carolina elections have been shown to be overwhelmingly and blessedly fraud-free, the editorial offers this on-the-mark assessment:

McNeely and any North Carolina Republicans who continue to spread this misinformation are not for “freedom,” or upholding the U.S. and North Carolina constitutions as they claim to be. They are trying to stir doubts about elections that could leave the results vulnerable to the very political manipulation they say they are trying to root out.

After noting that state and county election official have made clear that the lawmakers will not be permitted to rummage around in Durham’s voting equipment, the editorial concludes this way:

One aspect of this ridiculousness can’t be overstated: Durham is one of 89 counties that uses hand-marked ballots for early voting and Election Day. Even counties that use ES&S ExpressVote Universal Voting System have a paper record produced and double-checked by people.

North Carolina Republicans don’t even need to bring up voter fraud allegations. Trump won the state by 74,483 votes. It would almost exclusively benefit them in the governor’s race, where incumbent Roy Cooper beat Republican nominee Dan Forest by more than 248,000 votes. Even if every single vote for Cooper from Durham County was tossed out, Cooper would still have more than 100,000 votes on Forest.

North Carolina’s Republican Party needs to understand the power it has to spread information, and condemn this kind of talk before it starts to fester. Stop trying to push the Big Lie.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

NC House Democrats condemn Lt. Governor’s homophobic comments. He insists he was talking about school materials.

NC Democratic House members Marcia Morey, Vernetta Alston, and Allison Dahle at a news conference Tuesday.

A group of NC House Democrats spoke in support of LGBTQ residents at a news conference Tuesday while condemning Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson’s homophobic remarks in a video that surfaced last week.

“We’re all here to affirm the value and importance of LGBTQ people, but I hope also to represent the kind of support that this community has in every corner of our state,” said Rep. Vernetta Alston, a Durham Democrat.

Alston and Rep. Allison Dahle, a Raleigh Democrat, noted the Trevor Project National Survey on LGBTQ mental health reported that 42% of LGBTQ youth had seriously considered suicide in the past year.

In a video recorded at a church, Robinson, a Republican, called “transgenderism” and homosexuality “filth.”

“When you live in a place where you’re pointed out as something not good, it’s really hard to process that,” Dahle said.

The White House has condemned Robinson’s comments. Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Charlotte Democrat, called on Robinson to resign.

Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday none of their GOP colleagues called them to offer support after news of the Robinson video spread.

“Last week the Lieutenant Governor lit a match of hatred and intolerance that deserves a response from gay elected officials and it’s what our constituents want us to do,” said Marcia Morey, a Durham Democrat. “Hate and name calling has no place in the public discourse. Just like the N-word is abhorrent, so is calling transgenderism and homosexuality as ‘filth.’”

Robinson posted a Facebook video on Oct. 9, where he said his comments at the church were about school reading material. He mentioned three books with LGBTQ themes, “George,” “Lawn Boy,” and “Gender Queer: A memoir.”

All three have been challenged in other states. Parents in Texas and Virginia had Lawn Boy and Gender Queer pulled from school libraries, The Washington Post reported. Both won are recipients of American Library Association Alex Awards, which each year recognize 10 books “written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”

Marshall University Libraries cited George on its list of the most recently challenged books of 2020-2021.

Robinson repeated the assertion at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, as a stood by a panel from the graphic novel Gender Queer, saying it was too explicit for schools.

“We talking about materials  – inappropriate materials – that are being presented to our children. And we’re talking about those politicians who have demonized me because I’m trying to get this out of our classrooms,” he said.

Robinson said he’s received racist messages at his office.

Robinson has a history of homophobic comments, dating before his election last fall. He did not want to discuss those Tuesday.

“I don’t want to talk about Facebook posts right now,” he said. “Let’s just drop the whole Facebook thing and let’s talk about the subject matter at hand.”

At the House Democrats’ news conference, Dahle countered Robinson’s  contention that he was focused on schools, and quoted Robinson’s comments at the church: “There’s no reason anybody, anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth.”

Dahle said, “That doesn’t seem like it was focused on education.”

Morey called Robinson’s insistence that he was talking about school books a “bait and switch.”

“It started out as a church video, and it was disgusting,” she said. “And now it has pivoted to what kids are reading in schools. These are really two different issues. I that we all want good, solid literature that kids can read. Don’t conflate this with the words of hate and filth that sparked this entire debate.”

Working family tax credits are the tax break we need

The richest 5% of North Carolina households have an average income 28 times greater than the poorest fifth. More than half of the income in our state in 2018 was held by the wealthiest 20% of North Carolinians.

In 2019, before the start of the pandemic, almost one  in three North Carolinians lived below 200% of the poverty line and more than 40% of the people in our state did not have enough assets to make it three months with no income. This is no accident.  

The prevalence of poverty in our state is the result of economic policy- like our upside-down tax code-that drives income to the top while creating barriers to wealth building by withholding support from North Carolinians who are struggling to make ends meet.   

The tax changes over the past eight years have disproportionately benefited the top earners. As a result, the lowest 20% of earners (those making less than $18,000 annually) now pay more than three percentage points more in taxes as a share of their income than the top 20% of earners-meaning that our state tax code asks the most from those who can least afford it.  

North Carolina House and Senate proposals seek to deepen these inequities through even more tax breaks for top earners and large corporations, many of which are headquartered out of state.  

Rather than continue this trend of asking the most from those who can afford it the least, our leadership must prioritize the needs of working families who earn low wages across our state.  

The past year and a half have presented more barriers to financial security for North Carolinians as low-wage industries have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 recession leaving those workers and their families struggling to afford the basics like food, rent and childcare.  

The Earned Income Tax Credit returns to lower wage workers more of what they earn. A refundable and generous credit set at 20% of the federal credit would return an average of $500 of earnings to low or middle wage earning families in North Carolina.

When generous and refundable, these dollars help families afford the basics like more and healthier food and medical care which in turn reduces the toxic stress associated with the struggle to meet basic needs and improves the physical and mental health of both children and parents in claiming families.  

This household budget boost is also a boost to the broader community as EITCs are proven to improve the education and future earnings outcomes of children in families that receive the credit.  

Implementing a state working family tax credit like the Earned Income Tax Credit costs far less than the tax changes proposed by the North Carolina House and Senate and would provide North Carolina families a little help affording what they need to weather this downturn and drive dollars back into our economy.   

North Carolina working families need to get back more of what they earn, and it is time for the wealthiest and big companies to pay what they owe.

Heba Atwa is a policy advocate at the N.C. Budget & Tax Center.

Veteran journalist: The real Donald Trump shows through in attacks on Georgia’s GOP governor

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In a strange way, Donald Trump is the most honest politician I have ever witnessed.

He’s also the most dishonest, of course. He’ll lie about almost anything, shamelessly, without regard to truth or even plausibility. But it’s funny: He does not lie, almost cannot lie, about his emotions, about his deepest wants and needs. Even when it would do him well to lie about such things, his primal instinct to yell “I want!” pushes him to blurt the truth.

The truth is, he really wanted Brad Raffensperger to find him 11,800 votes, and he told him so. He wanted the Ukrainian president to announce an investigation of Joe Biden. He wanted Mike Pence to subvert the Constitution. And he wants the voters of Georgia to send Brian Kemp packing.

So no, Trump was neither lying or exaggerating last month when he told a rally down in the town of Perry that he hopes Democrat Stacey Abrams defeats incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp next year. “Having her, I think, might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know what I think,” Trump told the crowd, later adding that if Abrams takes Kemp’s job, “It’s OK with me.”

That was a stupid thing to say. It damaged Trump, it damaged Kemp, it damaged the state Republican Party. But it was also the plain, honest truth: Trump truly doesn’t care about Georgia Republicans losing the governor’s mansion; in fact, he hopes they do. He also doesn’t care about splitting the party or what it does to GOP candidates up and down the ticket. What he cares about is personal vengeance. And on Election Night of 2022, if Kemp is defeated, that sly smirk of satisfaction, of revenge publicly exacted, will spread across Trump’s face and for a moment he will be whatever passes for happy in his disturbed mind.

Not surprisingly, a lot of Republicans were shocked and angered by Trump’s remarks, so shocked and angered that one or two even dared to say so, in public. But they should be prepared for even worse in the months to come. Trump clearly intends to be a major player in Georgia. Of all the states he lost in 2020, he seems to have taken his loss in Georgia most personally. His ego just cannot conceive of the fact that he lost a state supposedly this red, this conservative, and he needs someone else to blame.

In addition, Trump has worked hard to recruit Herschel Walker to run for the U.S. Senate next year against Raphael Warnock. I have my doubts whether Walker will really carry through with the grueling campaign under a harsh media spotlight, and I don’t think those pushing his candidacy have Walker’s health or his best interests at heart. They are using him, not helping him.

However, if Walker really carries through with the campaign, then he becomes Trump’s surrogate, and Trump cannot allow his handpicked candidate to lose. A defeat for Walker, particularly in the GOP primary, would be utterly humiliating for Trump, calling into question his death grip on the GOP electorate not just here but nationwide.

So between now and the May primary, the former president will probably be back in the state multiple times, and after his Perry performance, you have to believe that at every rally and every campaign stop, he will lash out in some way against Kemp and to a lesser degree Raffensperger, the two men who have become Trump’s scapegoats.

In a close race, continued attacks on Kemp would be more than enough to throw the election to Abrams. In a close race, using the 2022 state campaign to relitigate the 2020 presidential outcome would also benefit Democrats, just as it benefitted Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the January runoffs.

But honestly, Trump just doesn’t care.

Veteran journalist Jay Bookman is a regular commentator for the Georgia Recorder which first published this essay.

Faith leaders demand apology, dialogue from Robinson in response to homophobic remarks

Rev. Nancy Petty addresses members of the news media at a protest outside the Lt. Governor’s residence on Monday.

Days after remarks delivered by North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson came to light in which he described homosexuality and “transgenderism” as “filth,” a group of North Carolina faith leaders gathered outside his official residence in Raleigh on Monday afternoon to demand an apology and dialogue.

Joined by a group of 35 or so supportive demonstrators who chanted “we are not filth,” and who held signs decrying the remark and the message of hate it conveyed, Rev. Nancy Petty of Raleigh’s Pullen Memorial Baptist Church declared that all human beings are created in the image of God — regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Petty then laid out three specific demands:

  1. that Robinson plainly and publicly apologize for his remarks and the damage they inflicted on LGBTQ people everywhere,
  2. that he sit down and engage in dialogue with the protesting group,
  3. failing #1 and 2, that he resign or be removed from office.

Petty was followed to the podium by Rev. Vance Haywood, Jr., Senior Pastor at Raleigh’s St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church, who noted that Robinson’s hateful remarks had put people’s lives at risk — both from violence and the risk of suicide. Haywood’s comments seemed especially relevant on a day that UNC-Chapel Hill canceled classes to address the threat of suicide amongst students and that was marked across the nation as National Coming Out Day.

Other speakers at the event included:

  • Kori Hennessey of the LGBT Center of Raleigh,
  • Rev. T. Anthony Spearman of the North Carolina NAACP,
  • Bishop Samuel Rodman of the Diocese of North Carolina, and
  • Rev. Jennifer Copeland, executive director of the North Carolina Council of Churches.

All decried Robinson’s statements and echoed the demands voiced by Rev. Petty.

Rev. Spearman, who took a break from his longstanding vigil outside the Governor’s mansion to demand justice for Dontae Sharpe, seemed to fight back some emotion as he declared that North Carolinians “must not be silent,” in the face of Robinson’s comments.

Bishop Rodman described Robinson’s comments as “not acceptable by any standards.”

Rev. Copeland expanded upon the observation that the diversity of humanity reflects God’s design for the world and called on Robinson to apologize and “make it right.”

At the conclusion of the event, Rev. Petty announced two additional events. On Wednesday, the group will return to the same spot at 5:00 pm to renew their demands and highlight the pain and suffering that comments like Robinson’s are causing for young people and on Friday a demonstration will take place at 4:00 pm outside the State Capitol Building.