If Mark Robinson Is Your Standard-Bearer, It's Time To Check Your Standards

Mark Robinson

Mark Robinson

A lot of people now know about Mark Robinson, the Republican candidate for governor in North Carolina. Some national and international outsiders looking in were shocked at his Super Tuesday win. But I always thought the Donald Trump-endorsed Robinson was a shoo-in. That’s the red-versus-blue country we live in, when many times the “D” or “R” label means more than the person wearing it.

Yet, I find myself glancing side to side at my fellow North Carolinians, realizing that with Robinson’s win, they either don’t know much about the man other than his party affiliation, or they know him and approve of what he says and how he says it.

And as loud as he screams his repugnant views, there’s no excuse for anyone within state lines pretending he’s an unknown quantity. I swear you can hear him roar from the beach to the Blue Ridge Mountains.

His voters won’t be able to hide now, though, since national newspapers and cable networks are all doing their “Mark Robinson” stories in the same way gawkers slow down for a better look at a car crash on the side of the road.

So, what exactly has Robinson said to make national media finally notice? Take your pick, since the list of racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic comments and personal insults is long.

The civil rights movement that provided the path for Robinson, a Black man, to rise to his current post of lieutenant governor? He has said it was “crap,” called the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., an “ersatz pastor” and a “communist,” and disavowed being any part of the African American community. “Why would I want to be part of a ‘community’ that sucks from the putrid tit of the government and then complains about getting sour milk?” he wrote, employing every offensive stereotype that would be right at home at a white supremacist get-together.

Women? Robinson’s message to a North Carolina church was that Christians were “called to be led by men,” that God sent Moses to lead the Israelites. “Not Momma Moses,” he said. “Daddy Moses.”

Robinson reserves especially toxic rhetoric for members of the LGBTQ community, unapologetically, and often in sermons. “There’s no reason anybody anywhere in America should be telling any child about transgenderism, homosexuality, any of that filth,” Robinson preached in one of them.

And though Robinson has tried to clean up his record with a trip to Israel, the Hitler-quoting candidate wrote in 2018 on Facebook: “This foolishness about Hitler disarming MILLIONS of Jews and then marching them off to concentration camps is a bunch of hogwash.”

There is plenty more, but you get the idea.

His party is embracing him, from the Republican Governors Association to party leader Trump, who called him “Martin Luther King on steroids.” I don’t remember King screaming hateful diatribes or conspiracy theories, and Robinson himself probably would recoil at any comparison to a man he has so little respect for.

You can see why Trump sees a kindred spirit in Robinson. After all, the man at the top of the GOP ticket, a spot clinched by this week’s primary results, isn’t known for his decorum. Both leave no personal insult unsaid. An example? Each somehow found humor in the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, and it goes downhill from there, with Robinson finding any opportunity to spew potshots at everyone from Beyoncé to former first lady Michelle Obama, as well as at the Black Panther film.

While it’s no surprise those two are besties, it’s telling that GOP voters are similarly enamored, picking these two men to lead them.North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, Robinson’s Democratic opponent in November, is — like current Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, a former attorney general – pretty low key, preferring to do just the job.

Either candidate would make history, as North Carolina’s first Black or Jewish governor.

Expect bombast, headlines and cash in a match made in news junkie heaven, with two candidates who could not be more different in policy and demeanor. And that’s even though Republicans in the state legislature have stripped the governor’s office of as much power as they could get away with — and with a supermajority, they could get away with a lot.

In the tradition of many extreme candidates facing a general election, Robinson has already begun the big pivot, blaming the media for misleading voters about him and his views. That’s not a great strategy when everything is on tape, video or in social media posts.

He will still try, though, especially since he really hates the media. He once told a Christian gathering, a conference sponsored by the North Carolina Faith & Freedom Coalition, that he could “smell” members of the media in the dark and “they stink to high heaven” — to applause.

But I wonder if Robinson really needs to change a thing.

In the past, North Carolinians most often have chosen hard workers over firebrands — and Democrats over Republicans — for governor, while narrowly sticking to the GOP in federal elections.

But will the old rules hold?

It’s not as though conservative Republicans in North Carolina didn’t have a choice. In fact, using electability as one argument, his primary opponents attacked Robinson’s statements as hard as any Democrat would, spending plenty on televised ads to get the word — his words — out.

One of them, attorney and businessman Bill Graham, had the support of one of the state’s U.S. senators, Thom Tillis, a Republican, which may have worked against him at a time when even a slightly moderate view is rejected by base voters as part of an inauthentic “establishment.”

Robinson smoked them all, winning nearly two-thirds of the vote.

A warning to Democrats: Don’t celebrate. Getting the candidate you wish for doesn’t always work out in November. Ask Hillary Clinton.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. She is host of the CQ Roll Call "Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis "podcast. Follow her on X @mcurtisnc3.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

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