Weekly Briefing

Befuddled by the backlash

WB-MM2013

Lacking a coherent response to Moral Mondays, the right resorts to channeling Mitt Romney

If the stakes weren’t so high, watching the reaction of the state’s conservative political establishment to the Moral Mondays phenomenon would be downright entertaining. Indeed, if you cup your hand to your ear you can almost hear Governor Pat McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger casting about wildly for ways to defuse the protests.

First, the right tried to dismiss the movement as the work of “outside agitators.” Then, it was supposedly the work of elitist college professors.

Next came the intimidation tactics, as the Pope Civitas Institute – a group founded and funded by the state Budget Director – began compiling and publishing an online list of arrested protesters along with personal information about each individual.

In recent days, it’s been a hodgepodge of ineffective responses. The Guv himself called the protests a “peripheral issue.” At about the same time, however, his Commerce Secretary appeared to pay the protests a backhanded compliment by telling reporters that the turmoil surrounding the 2013 legislative session was making it hard to sell North Carolina to out-of-state businesses.

I’m fielding calls every day, ‘what the heck’s going on (over) there?,’” Decker said. She added, “The current environment makes it very challenging to market North Carolina.”

Channeling Mitt

If there were a contest for “most preposterous and pathetic” response to the protests thus far, however, the winner has to be the latest spate of Pope-Civitas attacks in which the group has resorted to claiming that protesters and protest organizers are simply motivated by personal greed.

In the proud tradition of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney (who forever ruined his political career and offended a huge proportion of Americans with his infamous speech to a group of well-heeled supporters in which he said that “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what…47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it”) the Pope-Civitas people are actually claiming that the protests are part of a scheme to steal public funds.

This is from fundraising solicitation emailed out by the group’s Executive Director on Monday of this week:

Dear Friends,

Moral Monday’ protests have nothing to do with Morality.

They have everything to do with money.

In the past few years, the organizing groups of the Monday protests have received more than $100 million in direct state grants.

They are all affiliated under the umbrella group: “Historic Thousands on Jones Street” or “HKonJ” headed by William Barber, president of the NC NAACP. Let me be perfectly clear:

  • This is a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars
  • Our money is going to groups sponsoring the Monday protests
  • Taking your money and giving it to another is usually called “theft” – in this case it is also stupid!” (Emphasis in the original).”

The solicitation comes on the heels of a “study” in which the group alleges that it’s because some groups affiliated with the Historic Thousands on Jones Street Coalition – one of the organizers of Moral Monday protests — receive public funds to administer services that they are protesting the goings on in the General Assembly.

When you follow the money, you see that this isn’t about morality at all. It isn’t about the high-minded virtues of justice, or equality. It’s about politics: liberal organizers have depended for years on the largess of an insolvent and bloated state bureaucracy. And as state legislators move to address rampant waste and debt in state government – something the people of North Carolina elected them to do – liberal groups fear that they are about to lose their spot at the public trough.”

Yet another broadside personally attacked NAACP president William Barber, claiming that his motivations in leading the protest are a byproduct of the connections between the church he pastors and some nonprofit service providers that administer public funds.

Funny or just plain sad?

As with the Romney speech, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the utter disconnection from reality that these libelous attacks bespeak.

On the one hand, they are just so downright (and comically) crude and ham-fisted that you almost have to cringe in embarrassment for the Pope-Civitas people. Seriously, the notion that giant organizations with proud histories like the NAACP, AARP and the YWCA are protesting the myriad regressive actions of the 2013 General Assembly because some branch happens to administer a few thousand dollars in public funds is just so patently absurd that it’s hard to believe that a supposedly serious group – a group nervy enough to describe itself as “North Carolina’s Conservative Voice” – would stoop to allege it.

Similarly, to imply that Rev. William Barber – a courageous man who works night and day at enormous personal sacrifice, physical pain and even personal risk; a man who directs a tiny paid staff and who has, for years, tirelessly traveled the length and breadth if the state in an old minivan to help countless underdog causes – is doing what he is doing in order to advance his own personal financial agenda, is just so utterly wrong and, for lack of a better word, malicious that it must render any fair-minded observer virtually speechless.

So, setting aside the possibility that the attacks are just the desperate dishonesty of a political attack group that would do and say just about anything (something that admittedly remains a distinct possibility), how can one explain such rubbish?

Here’s the other most likely explanation: simple ideology-induced obliviousness.

By all indications, the Pope-Civitas people are so enmeshed in the world of market fundamentalist economics – a place in which the personal acquisition and accumulation of wealth and property is endlessly celebrated and assumed as the driving human instinct and predictor of human behavior in all circumstances – that they simply can’t grasp the notion that Moral Monday protesters would be seeking to vindicate something higher – something like…wait for it, morality.

So poisoned are they by the toxic dog-eat-dog doctrines of Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand et al., that they are literally incapable of responding intelligently to a passionate, morality-based movement that’s about fighting for intentional public solutions to serve the common good.

Put simply, the Pope-Civitasers appear to have become blinded by their own propaganda. Like old Soviet-era Stalinists and modern religious theocrats they find it impossible to acknowledge the simple truth that’s painted in living color right before their eyes – namely, that millions of North Carolinians are not buying the snake oil they and their allies are selling and do not want to see the clock of state turned back a half-century or more.

Let’s hope that their dishonest and delusional words continue to meet with the widespread and dismissive derision they so richly deserve.

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