GOP can blame itself

November 8, 2013 

— I sometimes wonder whether some of the guests of “The Daily Show have been living in a cave.

That is one explanation of why they continue to make fools of themselves by uttering nonsense that then becomes the latest viral video on the Internet.

Despite being around in its current incarnation, with Jon Stewart, since 1999, “The Daily Show” continues to attract foolish folks who sit for its unique brand of satirical segments that poke fun, enlighten and enrage around the day’s political events.

One of the latest to be so attracted was Buncombe County’s Don Yelton, a Republican political activist, occasional candidate and, after the show aired, former GOP precinct chairman.

Yelton sat for an interview by “Daily Show” straight man/merry prankster Aasif Mandvi for a piece on North Carolina’s new voter ID law, which is now the subject of a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Justice Department.

Yelton’s answers so astounded Mandvi that, at one point, he asked, “You know that we can hear you, right?”

They included such gems as, “If (the election law change) hurts the whites, so be it. If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”

Another Yelton comment: “I had a picture one time of Obama sitting on stump as a witch doctor, and I posted it on Facebook. I was making fun of the white half of Obama, not the black half.”

Yelton also spoke to a topic that has been on the minds of plenty of Democrats: the motive of the elections law. “The law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt,” he said.

Republican officialdom in North Carolina very quickly distanced itself from Yelton and his remarks.

State Republican Party chairman Claude Pope called the remarks “completely inappropriate and highly offensive” and demanded that Yelton resign his precinct chair position. Buncombe County GOP officials took a similar stance.

It didn’t take long for Yelton to comply.

Other Republican officials questioned whether the media was overplaying it, unfairly portraying Yelton as representative of the party.

As a precinct chairman, he is one of thousands. And in 2010, he couldn’t win a state Senate primary.

He is, though, a well-known party activist in Western North Carolina who is prominently featured on local TV and radio.

But those complaints miss a larger point.

Republican legislators did this to themselves.

There would have been no “Daily Show” interview and no Justice Department lawsuit had they passed a simple voter ID bill. Democrats would have complained for a few days, and the world would have forgotten North Carolina’s voter ID law.

Instead, legislators passed a bill that shortened the early voting period, ended preregistration for teens and made other changes that were easily characterized as voter suppression.

They passed a red-meat bill that fed the fantasies of their fringe.

Now they act surprised that the fringe is eating up the meal.

Scott Mooneyham is a syndicated columnist who writes about state government and politics.

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