Tuesday, February 11, 2014 —
RALEIGH — One of the more noteworthy developments of a new election year is the decision by the North Carolina Republican Party to try to use the Rev. William Barber, the state NAACP head, as a cudgel to beat on Democrats.
Or, is he a wedge to drive them apart?
I’ve taken particular note of the phenomenon because party officials have been using my words to do their work.
On a couple of occasions, the state GOP has sent out missives quoting me, in a year-end review, discussing the Barber-led Moral Monday protests and problems faced by the North Carolina Democratic Party in 2013.
I wrote: “With the state Democratic Party pretty much in disarray, Barber became the de facto leader of the left in North Carolina.”
A few days later, the state GOP had turned that sentence into Barber’s coronation as head of the state Democratic Party.
One news release, after quoting the above, proclaimed: “With the North Carolina Democratic Party tarnished by recent scandals and Kay Hagan in jeopardy of losing her U.S. Senate seat, Democrats have promoted the Rev. William Barber to be their new spokesman and de-facto leader.”
GOP state chairman Claude Pope said, “William Barber, the new leader of the North Carolina Democratic Party, has been promoting the failed far-left, big-government policies of the past that destroyed the state’s budget and led to record unemployment. It’s only fitting that liberal politicians like Kay Hagan and Roy Cooper have been following the Rev. Barber’s lead by parroting his talking points to fire up their fringe liberal activists.”
Who knew I was the kingmaker of the Democratic Party, handing out promotions and ordering around Hagan and Cooper to come kiss the ring? It’s a good thing I wasn’t too busy lining up endorsements for Hillary.
The obvious rhetorical trick used by Pope et al was to substitute my “left” for their “Democratic Party.”
While the NAACP may largely embrace policies of the left, it is not the Democratic Party.
Barber’s ascendancy as a key leader of the left in North Carolina was certainly helped by the vacuum created by Democratic Party stumbling and its elected officials’ loss of power. But party officials did not welcome their diminishing influence or see it as an opportunity to promote Barber.
As for Barber, he needed no Democratic Party anointment.
In a political world where many on the left view the Republican-controlled legislature’s policies as turning back the clock to the 1960s, why wouldn’t the state leader of the premier civil rights organization lead the attack against those lawmakers?
The Republican Party, though, sees political opportunity in Barber’s rise.
The only way to interpret its invocation of his name — he is not a candidate for any office — is that the GOP hopes that he scares away moderate, swing voters when it comes to supporting Democratic candidates.
Maybe that’s one way to make those same voters forget about fears of actual policies put in place by actual officeholders.
Scott Mooneyham is a syndicated columnist for Capitol Press Association and covers activities of the N.C. Legislature.