The spin has begun from the results of the North Carolina governor’s race. Even as the votes are still being counted, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is suggesting that Governor Pat McCrory’s tight re-election race should warn Georgia officials against pursuing religious-freedom legislation in the 2017 session. This conclusion, though entirely predictable coming from the AJC, isn’t supported by the facts.
McCrory catapulted into the national spotlight last spring by signing a bill protecting the privacy of women and girls in taxpayer-funded restrooms. This thoroughly unremarkable action provoked the rage of wealthy radical interests from outside the state, who vowed to pull out all stops to defeat him in his re-election bid.
McCrory currently trails challenger Roy Cooper by a paper-thin margin, a few thousand votes, after 70,000 votes belatedly appeared from liberal Durham County. (The media had predicted McCrory would lose by several percentage points. Oops.) Results won’t be known until all provisional, military, and absentee ballots are counted, and there are more than enough votes there to erase Cooper’s tiny lead. But regardless of which way the election tilts, there is no basis for claims that McCrory’s action to protect privacy either hurt the state or violated the wishes of North Carolinians.
Despite the propaganda, North Carolina’s economy is humming along quite nicely. The state has welcomed dozens of new companies even since the privacy controversy erupted in the spring of 2016. In fact, other than PayPal, pretty much the only enterprises that have chosen to punish the state for exercising common sense are taxpayer-funded sports events, aging musicians, and leftist Hollywood types looking to make a political statement.
Last spring, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a modest religious liberty bill to curry favor with radical LGBT activist groups and the corporations they’ve already bullied into submission. He boasts now that Georgia is ranked the Number 1 place to do business by Site Selection magazine. Guess which state is Number 2? North Carolina. So it looks as though corporations don’t base multi-million-dollar decisions on whether men are allowed into women’s restrooms in government buildings. Imagine that.
Perhaps the best indicator of what North Carolinians really think about the privacy issue is the easy re-election of Lt. Governor Dan Forest, who garnered well over 52 percent of the vote in a three-person race. If anything, Forest was an even more vocal proponent of the privacy bill than McCrory was. If North Carolinians really oppose that policy, why did they return him to office?
The fact is that McCrory was the target of a well-funded, classic Saul Alinsky attack. Radical out-of-state organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) spent millions in North Carolina to carry out Alinsky’s Rule No. 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)”
This anti-McCrory campaign wasn’t a grassroots effort. It was an extraordinarily well-funded, professionally designed PR campaign to spread propaganda. It involved contributing to local groups that were open to parroting the message (the North Carolina NAACP was happy to oblige, while the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and many African-American pastors stuck with the principles of religious freedom and privacy). And it was all designed to target, freeze, personalize and polarize Pat McCrory.
But in the face of this mammoth effort to destroy him . . . McCrory might still win. And if he loses, it will be by the narrowest of margins. In four years, the governor’s office may well be filled by the popular Mr. Forest, who has been a champion of sanity in sexual politics and of other conservative causes.
Why this hullabaloo should deter Georgians from enacting a very different bill — one that doesn’t involve public accommodations at all and merely protects people of faith from government discrimination — is not clear. HRC and its ilk may huff and puff, but as North Carolina shows, their ability to blow down the house of American principles clearly has its limits. Georgia legislators — and the governor — shouldn’t give in to the angry meowing of a paper tiger.
Jane Robbins is an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principles Project.