There’s that 1968 James Taylor song that’s become the unofficial state anthem for North Carolina, and the unofficial song of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, played at football and basketball games and pep rallies and sung by the graduating class at every commencement. Of course Taylor’s father was dean of the medical school there, and his uncle dean of the law school, but it’s still a cool song:
In my mind I’m goin’ to Carolina
Can’t you see the sunshine?
Can’t you just feel the moonshine?
Ain’t is just like a friend of mine
To hit me from behind
Yes, I’m gone to Carolina in my mind…
With a holy host of others standin’ around me
Still I’m on the dark side of the moon
And it seems like it goes on like this forever
You must forgive me, if I’m up and gone to
Carolina in my mind
Taylor recorded that at Trident Studios in London at the same time the Beatles were recording The White Album there, and that’s Paul McCartney and George Harrison, that holy host of others, singing in the background. Cool – but Taylor was homesick. It’s easy to see why.
Graduate school at Duke was a long time ago, the early seventies, and North Carolina seemed like such a nice place, at the time. Southerners were polite and pleasant after all, not seething with resentment after all that civil rights business that ended with Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and no one was still angry about the War of Northern Aggression, which the rest of us call the Civil War. That never came up. Sure, Jesse Helms did his rant on the evening news out of Raleigh two or three times a week, but he wasn’t one of the state’s two senators back then – he was just a crank who didn’t like black people very much, or the federal government, or much of anything else. He was a character. That was entertainment.
Everyone else was being sensible. Research Triangle Park had just opened, halfway between Duke and UNC down in Chapel Hill, and IBM and the big pharmaceutical companies were moving in, flooding central North Carolina with young professionals, driving Volvos and the occasional BMW, turning the place into the New South. The place would be the next Silicon Valley, but with magnolia trees and ceiling fans. The trends were obvious. Voters there sent the blandly moderate Republican, Elizabeth Dole, off to the Senate up in Washington – the wife of Bob Dole, an establishment Republican who was hardly a conservative firebrand. He was a total gentleman and she had run the Red Cross for years, so she was hardly a let-the-poor-die-in-the-poverty-they-deserve kind of Republican. She just couldn’t manage seething resentment. She didn’t have it in her, but then North Carolina Voters sent Jesse Helms off to the Senate. It seems he wasn’t a stock character after all, an openly racist relic from the past shoved in front of the cameras for everyone’s amusement. Enough voters took him seriously enough to send him to Washington, again and again.
James Taylor was long gone and North Carolina wasn’t what it had seemed. Perhaps that new academic-scientific-technology nexus in the middle of the state was only an unexpected urbane island in the midst of something else entirely, the original angry darkness, or things change over time. Obama carried the state in 2008, but then in 2012 only came close, and now North Carolina is the reddest of red states, from the local dogcatcher up to the governor – but not quite. The current governor is a Democrat, but neutered by a militantly conservative state legislature that has gerrymandered the state so that the current governor will be very lonely for a long time – until all the redistricting is thrown out in courts. But for now the Democratic Party is dead there and North Carolina is now the mirror image of California out here, where the desperate Republicans have become a bit of a joke, if anyone thinks of them at all. It wasn’t that way once, but it’s that way now.
Now the only issue is which sort of Republicans the voters in North Carolina will accept – establishment Republicans, who’d like to keep the economy humming along and only nod to all that seething resentment out there about race and multiculturalism and gay folks and whatnot, or they’ll be the other sort of Republicans, the bitter and angry Tea Party types who turned into the Trump folks would just as soon burn it all down, as long as “those people” are put in their place.
Don’t ask who “those people” are. If you have to ask you hate America, and Donald Trump just dropped by:
Trying to prove his political clout by pushing a Republican to victory in a special election, President Donald Trump used a North Carolina rally Monday to paint a bleak picture of a nation he claimed would be overrun with crime, poverty and immigrants if Democrats seize power in Washington.
Trump, appearing at his first campaign rally in nearly a month, went on the offensive in an effort to change a series of late-summer negative headlines over his slipping poll numbers, warning signs of an economic slowdown and a running battle over hurricane forecasts. He urged the Fayetteville crowd to vote Tuesday for Republican Dan Bishop, brandishing his usual incendiary rhetoric to declare from the stage that “tomorrow is a chance to send a clear message to the America-hating left.”
It’s like old times. Jesse Helms is back:
“That’s why we need four more years,” Trump said at the nearly 90-minute rally. “It’s got to seed. It’s a plant. It has to grow. It has to grow those roots. That’s why 2020 is just as important – because they will try to take it away!”
What will “they” take away? They took the noble and pure and heroic Old South away and now they want to take away YOUR AMERICA!
That was the message, which might or might not work at all:
The special election could offer clues about the mindset of Republicans in the suburbs, whose flight from the party fueled the GOP’s 2018 House election losses.
The president enjoys wide popularity within his own party, but a GOP defeat in a red-leaning state could portend trouble for his reelection campaign. But before leaving Washington, Trump dismissed questions of whether a poor result for the Republican candidate would serve as a warning sign in next year’s elections.
“No, I don’t see it as a bellwether,” Trump said.
But he did show up there:
Monday’s rally was held just over 100 miles from the site of a Trump rally in July where “send her back” chants aimed at a Somali-born American congresswoman rattled the Republican Party and seemed to presage an ugly reelection campaign.
The chant was not heard Monday.
Instead, Trump repeatedly painted the Democrats as a party that has moved to the extreme left on issues like immigration, abortion and health care.
“You don’t have any choice. You have to vote for me,” Trump told the crowd. “What are you going to do: Put one of these crazy people running? They are so far left.”
“Your way of life is under assault by these people,” he claimed.
And then he shouted out his support for the Second Amendment even with all new mass shootings. Arm everyone! Then everyone will be safe! It was like old times, but these are transitional times in this special election:
The House district flows eastward from the prosperous Charlotte suburbs into rural areas hugging the South Carolina border. State officials invalidated last November’s election following allegations of voter fraud by a GOP operative.
The district has been held by the GOP since 1963. In 2016, Trump won the district by 11 percentage points. Should Bishop defeat Democrat Dan McCready, it could give Trump room to assert that he pulled Bishop over the top. If McCready prevails or Bishop wins by a whisker, it will suggest GOP erosion and raise questions about Trump’s and his party’s viability for 2020.
Trump needs a landslide here, but this is where the Old South meets the New South:
Marshville residents Philip and Diane Ezzell, both 70, were near the front of the line Monday waiting to enter the Trump rally. Both attributed their support for Bishop to his backing by Trump. “We like his values, and he supports Trump,” Diane Ezzell said. “And we don’t want no socialist clowns.”
That was a reference to a television spot by Bishop superimposing the faces of McCready and other prominent Democrats on swaying clown figures.
Cynthia Brown, of Fayetteville, 50, is also attending the rally. Brown, who is black, said supporting Trump has been “a pretty lonely experience” for her. She added: “But that’s okay. I’m not a follower.”
But she is one of “those people” and that may be the central issue now. Just change the context. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake does that:
Early Monday afternoon, acting Customs and Border Protection head Mark Morgan offered some peace of mind to Bahamians seeking humanitarian relief in the United States in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, following the news that some were turned away for not having visas.
“This is a humanitarian mission,” Morgan assured. “If your life is in jeopardy and you’re in the Bahamas… you’re going to be allowed to come to the United States, whether you have travel documents or not.” He said the processing would be handled expeditiously.
Then President Trump offered a very different message.
That was in what is now called “chopper talk” – the president takes reporters’ questions on his way to the helicopter that will take him to Andrews where Air Force One will take him somewhere else – the only thing the public will ever get, beside tweets, now that there are no press briefings at all any longer – and this was the talk:
Trump emphasized that “very bad people” could exploit the process and warned against welcoming Bahamians.
“We have to be very careful,” Trump said. “Everybody needs totally proper documentation. Because, look, the Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren’t supposed to be there.”
The president added, “I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States – including some very bad people and very bad gang members.”
Blake’s quick summary:
Shortly after Morgan said people didn’t need to have documents, Trump said they did. And shortly after Morgan emphasized a quick process, Trump suggested it would need to be very thorough.
The president’s comments shouldn’t be a surprise. This is his default response, after all, to accepting people into the United States on humanitarian grounds. He did it during the 2016 campaign, arguing against welcoming refugees from Syria and even calling for a complete ban on Muslim immigration. When he came into office, he privately railed against a deal between the Obama administration and Australia on taking in other refugees.
More recently, this has been Trump’s attitude toward asylum seekers, suggesting that gang members and even terrorists are exploiting the process to gain access to the United States.
Trump emphasized Monday that, “believe it or not,” many parts of the Bahamas were not hit hard by Dorian, suggesting the humanitarian need isn’t that great. The capital of Nassau and southern parts of the Bahamas sustained significantly less damage.
In short, this wasn’t a big deal. They can head for Nassau. They’re whiners. And anyone upset by any of this is a useless snowflake. But Trump’s logic was a bit odd:
His comments, notably, suggest not just that some refugees are gang members but that they might pose other problems. He even seems to suggest that people might have gone to the Bahamas so they could pose as refugees to gain admission to the United States. Trump has often spoken in this manner about potential terrorists. It’s not clear whether he was saying they went to the Bahamas before the hurricane or somehow got there afterward.
These bad guys went to the Bahamas years before this particular hurricane as part of a plan to sneak into America this week? They had this planned long ago? That’s damned clever, but that’s as absurd as arguing that Barack Obama’s Kenyan family planted a fake birth certificate for him in Hawaii in 1961 as part of their careful and devious plan for him to win the presidency in 2008 and then ruin America? They had this planned out long ago too? Who thinks like that? Donald Trump did. Donald Trump does.
Or this may just be nastiness:
The Bahamas, notably, contain many people of Haitian descent – as many as 1 in 10 residents – and they tend to be among the island nation’s poorest residents. Trump has in the past privately referred to Haiti as a “shithole country” while deriding protections for immigrants from it.
Other Republicans – particularly in Florida – have taken a more compassionate tone when it comes to welcoming Bahamians. “As hundreds of thousands of Bahamians seek refuge or start to rebuild after Hurricane Dorian, we cannot have the kind of confusion that occurred last night in Freeport,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has encouraged Trump to waive some visa requirements.
That’s not going to happen. He has to impress those voters in that one congressional district in North Carolina this week. He’ll keep “those people” from ruining America. They’re everywhere now.
And that means that this is all about the right sort of people, and CNN’s Chris Cillizza reports on what was inevitable:
Donald Trump spent most of the 2016 campaign railing against the Clinton dynasty, casting the idea of a husband and wife both serving as president as exactly what was wrong with America’s politics – which is why what Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said over the weekend in California was more than a little odd:
“The Trumps will be a dynasty that will last for decades, propelling the Republican Party into a new party. One that will adapt to changing cultures. One must continue to adapt while keeping the conservative values that we believe in.”
America’s egotistical rich buffoons were skewered in that old prime-time soap opera Dallas – too much money, not enough sense, and no shame – but it seems that this isn’t that. Or this is that, in a different setting:
Parscale isn’t saying anything that Trump himself doesn’t think and hasn’t said in the past.
“So nice, everyone wants Ivanka Trump to be the new United Nations Ambassador,” Trump tweeted of his eldest daughter in October 2018. “She would be incredible, but I can already hear the chants of nepotism! We have great people that want the job.”
“If she ever wanted to run for president,” Trump told The Atlantic earlier this year. “I think she’d be very, very hard to beat.”
Added Trump of Ivanka: “She’s got a great calmness. I’ve seen her under tremendous stress and pressure. She reacts very well – that’s usually a genetic thing, but it’s one of those things, nevertheless. She’s got a tremendous presence when she walks into the room.”
But wait, Cillizza has more:
Heck, even Trump’s kids themselves sometimes openly consider their own political futures.
“I definitely enjoy the fight,” Donald Trump Jr., the President’s eldest son, told Bloomberg in March. “I definitely like being out there, and I love being able to see the impact and the difference that it makes on these people’s lives that I get to see all over the country.”
And Don Jr., who is currently co-running the family business with his brother Eric, has become a hot commodity on the Republican fundraising circuit; he’s scheduled to do a series of appearances and fundraisers for the likes of Sen. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), John Cornyn (Texas) and Thom Tillis (North Carolina).
These, then, are the right people, and Cillizza notes this:
All of this was, and is, utterly predictable. Trump views himself and his offspring as not only unique but better than the average (or, really, any) person.
“Well I think I was born with the drive for success because I have a certain gene,” Trump told CNN back in 2010. “I’m a gene believer. Hey, when you connect two racehorses you get usually end up with a fast horse. I had a good gene pool from the standpoint of that, so I was pretty much driven.”
It’s the gene pool, dummy! And everyone knows what comes next – eugenics and talk of the Aryan race, the Master Race.
He does come from a German family, but there are ways around that:
The House of Windsor is the reigning royal house of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. The dynasty is originally of German paternal descent and was a branch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, itself derived from the House of Wettin, which succeeded the House of Hanover to the British monarchy following the death of Queen Victoria, wife of Albert, Prince Consort.
The name was changed from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English Windsor in 1917 because of anti-German sentiment in the British Empire during World War I.
Dynasties can take care of such things, but they cannot take care of everything:
President Donald Trump was not surprised that it was his eldest son who was involved in organizing the infamous Trump Tower meeting between members of his campaign and a Russian lawyer, a key episode in the Russia investigation.
According to a new report in the Atlantic published Monday, President Trump was not angry with his son Donald Trump Jr. when he heard news of the meeting on cable news. He wasn’t even surprised.
“He wasn’t angry at Don,” a former White House official told the Atlantic. “It was more like he was resigned to his son’s idiocy.”
“He’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer,” Trump reportedly said.
That was said of Queen Anne too, the last monarch of the House of Stuart, succeeded by her second cousin George I of the House of Hanover, a German who spoke no English, and then it was one oddly-German George after another. Dynasties can survive a dim bulb or two. The English survived Anne. The Trump Dynasty will survive Junior.
But this king and his heirs are an odd lot, with that one daughter and her husband:
Trump reportedly began telling allies, “Jared hasn’t been so good for me,” and lamenting – in jest, perhaps, though no one could say for sure – that Ivanka could have married Tom Brady instead. More than once, the president wished aloud that the couple would move back to New York.
Every time he turned around, they were nagging him about something new – refugees one day, education the next. It never stopped. Their efforts to change his mind about the Paris climate accord exasperated the president, who took to mocking their arguments when they weren’t around. “They’re New York liberals,” he would say, according to a former White House aide. “Of course that’s what they think.”
They’re not the right sort of people either. But who is? We all have Carolina in our minds now, the real one, divided and angry. James Taylor was singing about something else entirely, a long time ago.