There’s one big reason America is already great, despite Donald Trump’s bloviating to the contrary. It’s this country’s diversity. The reasons for this are too many to count, but one very big and very recent reason is the 2018 Democratic freshman class.
Before the Democrats officially retook control of the House, a flyer made the rounds on Capitol Hill with pictures of the new freshmen. The Republican freshmen were all white, and all but one were male. In contrast, the Democratic freshman class is easily the most diverse in history–an inspiring mix of women and people of color. In short, this is a class that looks like America.
But to hear North Carolina’s lieutenant governor talk, diversity is not something to be celebrated. Rather, it’s something that this country needs to survive.
Dan Forest has served as North Carolina’s lieutenant governor since 2013–only the second Republican to hold the post since the end of Reconstruction. Wait a minute, you say. The governor, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat. However, the governor and lieutenant governor run on separate tickets. So even as Cooper managed to unseat Pat McCrory by the slimmest of margins in the 2016 governor’s race, Forest held on for a second term against Democratic challenger Linda Coleman.
With that victory, Forest became an obvious Republican candidate for governor in 2020. In January, he announced that he is exploring a challenge to Cooper next year. Watch the announcement here.
Forest talked a lot about bringing people together and seeing “the intrinsic worth of each of our people.” But he sounded a far different tone last Sunday when he spoke at Cornerstone Church, a charismatic megachurch in Salisbury. To hear him talk, diversity isn’t something to be celebrated.
Forest claimed that God wanted to see people brought together–and yet would have us believe that diversity is keeping us from coming together.
God doesn’t want us to divide our state. He doesn’t want us to divide our nation. He wants us to bring people together and live in the world like the Acts 2 church did. And yet no other nation, my friends, has ever survived the diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today, because of a lack of assimilation, because of this division, and because of this identity politics.
Well, that’s interesting. Shouldn’t any diverse and multicultural society want to embrace those values? After all, if you want to bring more voices to the table, it’s next to impossible to do so without embracing a society’s diversity.
Forest has been deservedly raked over the coals for this. Pearl-clutching about diversity and multiculturalism is a common white nationalist talking point. Additionally, as Democratic state senator Jeff Jackson noted, it harkens back to the days when dog whistling was standard operating procedure in North Carolina campaigns.
Here’s a news flash, Dan. Embracing diversity allows people from other cultures to feel like they have a chance to be at the table. For instance, Deb Haaland of New Mexico, one of the first two Native American women ever elected to Congress, told a raucous crowd at her victory celebration that she never believed she would see the day “where I would be represented by someone who looks like me.”
When Haaland was sworn in on January, she recognized that she and the other Native woman elected last fall, Sharice Davids of Kansas, were role models for other Native girls–and that they had a duty to inspire other girls of color to follow their lead.
And diversity isn’t just a matter of optics. Having more voices can actually help get things done. For instance, in May, the four enrolled Native Americans in the House–Haaland, Davids and Oklahoma Republicans Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin–cosponsored a bill intended to fight the scourge of missing Native American women. Studies show that Native Americans are more likely to be reported missing more than anyone else. It’s not too hard to conclude that this bill wouldn’t have gotten this far without Native Americans speaking up for their own.
Forest must have a short memory. The last time a major statewide candidate in North Carolina tried to blow a dog whistle, it backfired–and bigly. In her bid for reelection to the Senate, Elizabeth Dole tried to smear her Democratic challenger, Kay Hagan, for taking donations from a PAC supported by American Atheists. The message was obvious–why would anyone running for Senate in the Bible Belt take one penny from people who didn’t believe in God?
That sort of ad may have worked 30 to 35 years ago. But it blew up in Dole’s face, as Kagan defeated her by over eight points. If history is any guide, Forest should get the same treatment.
This speech from Forest proves that making him governor and keeping the state legislature in Republican hands would amount to lighting a match near a gas tank. Cooper has done a lot to undo much of the damage done by McCrory and the GOP during the four years they had complete control of the state. But he’s going to need a lot of help to stay in office. Click here to donate.
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