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Thomas Mills: In defense of Marjorie Taylor Greene (well, kind of)

Editor’s note: The following are excerpts from blog posts by Thomas Mills, the founder and publisher of politicsnc.com.

By Thomas Mills

OK, here’s my unpopular opinion: Marjorie Taylor Greene should not have been stripped of her committee assignments.

Sure, what she said is repugnant and she should be ostracized and ridiculed. However, the people of her district elected her and they should be the ones to punish her by throwing her out of office in two years.

The First Amendment protects Greene’s right to make obnoxious, racist and offensive statements. She made them before she was elected or even a candidate. If her opponents in the primary and general election didn’t bring up her crazy and hateful rhetoric, that was a failure on their part. If they did and the voters didn’t care, that’s the price we pay for democracy.

It would be different if she were a sitting member of Congress when she was spouting her hateful, stupid views. Then, she’s bringing disrepute to the House of Representatives. Because she made those statements before she was elected, they should be protected, regardless of how repugnant they may be.

The move also sets a terrible precedent in the age of social media. How many future Members of Congress are going to get committees assignments stripped for stupid things they said on Facebook or Twitter when they were much younger and immature? Greene will be the excuse for partisan or vindictive behavior for a long time to come.

In addition, Democrats are creating a martyr for a bunch of people who already believe they are victims. Greene’s punishment just validates their views that the elites are out to get them. She will use the move to strengthen her position within the GOP.

A better move would have been to publicized her statements and positions every time she opened her mouth. She could have been a punching bag and object of ridicule on her committees while embarrassing all of her GOP colleagues. The things she says in an official setting could be far more damaging than what she’s going to say outside of the context of her Congressional duties.

I believe the answer to repugnant speech is more speech. Expose her. Don’t censor her.

•••

Speculation about the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina is already ramping up. National outlets are writing about the state because of its importance in determining control of the Senate. Senator Richard Burr has announce he will retire, leaving an open seat in a state that is already highly competitive. Both parties already have announced candidates and more are looking at the race.

After a record high turnout in 2020, the 2022 turnout rate will certainly drop. Historically, midterm elections in North Carolina have a turnout rate in the mid-40s. However in 2018, 53% of registered voters showed up. While that number fell 22% behind the presidential year of 2020, it was 9% higher than 2014, the previous midterm election. In addition, 2018 was a so-called blue moon, with no high-profile race at the top of the ticket.

In 2018, Democrats had a good year. They won seats on the state’s highest courts and picked up seats in both chambers of the legislature. They benefited from a turnout rate among voters under 40 that jumped more than 10%. The election seemed to justify the conventional wisdom that higher turnout is good for Democrats. The 2020 election cast doubt on that supposition.

In 2018, turnout was driven by Trump, even though he wasn’t actually on the ballot. Republicans turned out to defend him. Democrats turnout to oppose him. In 2022, he won’t likely be much of a factor. The election will hinge more on Joe Biden’s performance as president. The Senate race will again be the center of national attention and driving the turnout in the election.

In both 2018 and 2014, Democratic turnout trailed Republican turnout by about three percent and both parties increased their turnout by about eight percent from 2014 to 2018. That said, Democrats made up a smaller share of the 2018 vote than they did in 2014. They dropped about 4% of the overall electorate while Republicans’ share only dropped by 2%. Unaffiliated voters made up the difference, increasing their turnout by 11% and making up 28% of the electorate in 2018 as opposed to 22% in 2014. The 2018 election showed unaffiliated voters shifting towards Democrats, a trend that continued in 2020.

In 2018, turnout among white voters increased about 9% over 2014 while turnout among African American voters increased about 6%.  In 2018, African Americans made up about 20% of the electorate. In contrast, they made up about 21% in 2014. Democrats need to reverse this trend if they want to do well in 2022.

In a state as evenly divided as North Carolina, Democrats need to focus on registering and motivating voters. They consistently trail Republicans in turnout. If Democrats kept pace with Republican turnout, the state might still be purple, but it would have a bluer hue.

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