An election-season glossary of far-right code words

Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., speaks at the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland in February. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

By Michael McElroy

April 11, 2024

Republicans Dan Bishop, Mark Robinson, and Michele Morrow form one of the most far-right ballots in the country, but as they court a far more diverse electorate, they don’t always talk like it.

North Carolina, one of the most politically diverse states in the country, is nearly evenly split among registered Democrats and Republicans, and is teeming with unaffiliated voters who could tip a given election in either direction.

It is, political scientist Chris Cooper told Politico in 2020, “the swingiest of the swing states.”

But Dan Bishop, the Republican nominee for attorney general, seemed to suggest to a conservative talk show this month that rather than embrace the nuanced views of a complex citizenry in the 2024 elections, North Carolina should instead pursue far-right priorities on immigration, abortion restrictions, anti-LGBTQ measures, and other issues.

In short, he said, North Carolina should be more like Texas and Florida, which have passed some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

“Our first big step in North Carolina is to make it like Florida and Texas. And that’s what we’re going to do this year,” Bishop told the program Reclaiming America. “The result will be to consolidate North Carolina as a not a purple state, but an absolutely clear state where common sense prevails as a red state.”

Bishop is one of three major Republican candidates seeking state-wide election in 2024—alongside Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Robinson and Michele Morrow, the GOP nominee for public school superintendent—who have backed national abortion bans, severe immigration laws, and harsh anti-LGBTQ policies that are far more at home in Texas than in North Carolina, where the rural areas may be conservative, but the urban centers are blue and growing fast.

None of them have shied away from these positions, but, like many extreme politicians in an election year, they have tempered their rhetoric away from their base and toward a more moderate public they can’t win without.

So, as a useful guide, here is a quick glossary of some of the more common code words and phrases many far-right Republicans have used to mask their records in a general election.

A handy glossary

“Religious Freedom” and “God’s Plan” – Most North Carolinian politicians often cite their belief in God, but Bishop, Robinson, and Morrow have suggested they have run for office, in part, because God told them to.

  • “God has his hand on you and will direct your path,” Bishop told the Reclaiming America hosts. “I certainly had no pre-existing plan to go to Congress [in 2014], … but the Lord had different plans and we acceded to those.”
  • Morrow said at a Wake County School Board meeting in 2023 that “We demand that the children who fear God are protected in our schools.”
  • Robinson told a church congregation last year that “God formed me because he knew there was going to be a time when God’s learning was going to be intolerable to the wicked.”

What did Robinson and Morrow say were the wickedness and dangers that Christian children needed to be protected from? Diversity efforts and protections for LGBTQ community.

Polls show that acceptance of homosexuality is rising fast, even among Christians. And a strong majority of North Carolinians back abortion rights and protections.

Claims of being part of God’s plan suggest then that it is God’s plan too to ban abortion and cast LGBTQ students into the shadows. And calling for religious freedom in this context means the freedom to impose extreme religious beliefs on everyone, including those who don’t share them. To disagree with Morrow or Robinson, then, is to defy God.

“Election integrity” – Bishop and most Republican leaders in the state have backed or passed laws that make it harder to vote, all under the premise of “election integrity.” Recent changes eliminating the grace period for absentee ballots prevented zero acts of fraud but did toss out over 1,100 valid ballots in the 2024 primary election. Another 500 voters were turned away because they did not have a voter ID.

Widespread voter fraud is non-existent in the state, and nationwide for that matter. But Bishop voted against certifying the 2020 elections and backed Donald Trump’s lies that it had been stolen. Robinson and Morrow have also made evidence-free and conspiracy-fueled claims that Trump won the election. (He didn’t).

In a video posted on TikTok, Morrow marched with her oldest children to the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, just before the riot. After she won the primary for school superintendent, the video was deleted.

She has also called for violence against Joe Biden and other Democrats.

“Law and Order” – This one has long been Republican code for punitive criminal justice laws, including those establishing mandatory minimum sentences that have a disproportionate effect on people of color, sending them to prison for long terms for minor offenses. This year, if Republican policies are any indication, it also means enforcing abortion bans that courts have deemed, in part, unlawful; locking up immigrants and their children; making it easier for domestic abusers to buy guns; and making it harder to stop school shootings.

“Republicans don’t really like lawyers very much, and for good reason,” Bishop said in his interview with Reclaiming America. “They see lawyers used so aggressively by the left in this country to subvert law and order.”

He was referring, among other things, to efforts by Attorney General Josh Stein and Gov. Roy Cooper to challenge the state’s new 12-week abortion ban; and lawsuits brought against the ban by reproductive rights advocates. A federal judge has already blocked some provisions of the ban, though its restriction on most abortions after 12 weeks still remains in place.

“Compromise and common sense” – Bishop and Robinson each called the 12-week abortion ban a compromise, but in reality it was only a compromise between the somewhat moderate wing of the Republican Party and the most extreme wing. If it were up to Bishop and Robinson, abortion would be banned at conception with few, if any, exceptions for the life of the mother. Bishop also said that the 2016 Bathroom Bill that brought the state much derision and cost it billions of dollars in events and business, was “common sense.”

Looking Ahead

Robinson is running against Stein, a Democrat, for governor; Bishop will face Democrat Jeff Jackson, who is also currently in Congress; and Morrow will face Moe Green, a lifelong educator.

The policies pushed by the state’s Republican candidates would, if enacted, make North Carolina one of the country’s most conservative states. But its electorate is more moderate overall.

While Texas and Florida are fairly conservative, there are more registered Democrats in North Carolina than Republicans. That, of course, does not make it blue. Unaffiliated voters are the biggest voting designation in the state, and that has produced what may seem like odd results, but is very much in keeping with the state’s electorate.

It often prefers Republican presidents, Democratic statewide officials, and, until gerrymandering became the norm in North Carolina, a little bit of both in its legislature.

Though Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden by just over a percentage point in 2020, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, beat his Republican opponent by four and a half percentage points.

Author

  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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