Forest leading the GOP toward the cliff in 2020

Published November 14, 2019

By Thomas Mills

Before I begin, let’s remember that today is Veteran’s Day. On this day in 1918, the First World War ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It was an utterly senseless war that killed millions of people and then set the stage for next world war just 20 years later. We’ve chosen this day to remember the men and women who’ve served our country. We should remember both their service and their value. It’s appropriate that we recognize them on this anniversary because it should be a reminder that, while our military is necessary for freedom and security, we should not take lightly the decision to send them to war. 

Now, for a little North Carolina news. Last week, Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, who is also running for governor, announced his education plan. A key component is allowing everyone in the state to be eligible for vouchers to attend private schools. The move could lead to a huge transfer of tax dollars from public schools to private ones, subsidizing wealthy families who already send their children to private schools. It could also drain resources from public schools that are already suffering from the GOP cuts to per pupil spending. 

Politically, Forest could see more support from religious conservatives who want to send their children to Christian schools or to homeschool them. It might help in the GOP primary, but that’s about as far as it goes. In a general election, Democrats will bash him for taking money out of public schools and giving it to private schools. I haven’t seen polling recently on this issue but a little over a decade ago, it was a killer. I doubt that much has changed. 

Conservatives, though, have a mythical view of school vouchers. Civitas this morning had a tweet asking if vouchers could make African Americans who support them more amenable to Republican candidates. The answer, of course, is no. School vouchers, or choice as conservatives euphemistically call them, are not a determinative issue for the vast majority of black voters. Most African Americans won’t easily forget that the GOP is the party that elected a man president who apologized for white supremacists in Charlottesville, targeted black voters in nationwide voter suppression schemes, protect Confederate monuments on public property, oppose affirmative action, use gerrymandering to limit their power and deny the franchise to ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society. So, no, most black voters won’t be migrating to a party that’s been openly hostile toward them just because they offer vouchers. 

Forest’s plan lays out why Democrats want to run against him. He’s the model of the social conservative who can’t win statewide. Back in the 1990s, Republicans rejected moderate nominees and chose people like Robin Hayes in primaries. They not only got beaten badly, they forced moderates like Richard Vinroot to the right, dooming them in general elections. The state is even more moderate today than it was then. Forest is taking up the mantle of the far right candidate and leading his party full charge to toward the 2020 cliff.