Charlotte, North Carolina has a black mayor, a black police chief, a black fire chief, a black school board chair, a black district attorney, and it will soon have a black sheriff — and the state’s former governor is very upset about this fact.
As governor, Republican Pat McCrory signed the most comprehensive voter suppression law in the nation. Indeed, this law was arguably the most aggressive attempt any state made to keep black voters away from the polls since the Jim Crow era. As a federal appeals court that struck the law down explained, state lawmakers studied racial voting patterns within the state, and then “enacted legislation restricting all — and only — practices disproportionately used by African Americans.”
Flash forward to less than two years after McCrory lost his reelection bid, and the ex-governor is now a talk radio host in Charlotte. And he’s not the least bit happy that his city will be led by black people.
“We’ve become a very segregated political system in Charlotte-Mecklenburg,” an agitated McCrory claimed in the opening of his radio show Wednesday. “The Democratic Party controls every political body in Charlotte-Mecklenburg,” and “the Black Political Caucus has total control over the Democratic Party.”
McCrory’s jeremiad against the fact that many black politicians have built successful careers in Charlotte came one day after African-American former police detective Garry McFadden crushed the county’s white incumbent Sheriff Irwin Carmichael in a Democratic primary election.
This race was widely viewed as a referendum on whether Charlotte jailers would help federal authorities round up undocumented immigrants. McFadden, who opposes such an immigration crackdown, won about 52 percent of the vote. Carmichael, who supports it, won only 20 percent and took third place.
There is no Republican candidate opposing McFadden, so McFadden is all-but-certain to become sheriff after this November’s general election. He will join several other African Americans who serve in elected offices within Charlotte, including Democratic Mayor Vi Lyles.
The fact that black public officials thrive in Charlotte should not surprise anyone. The city is majority-minority and more than a third of its residents are black. African-Americans also make up a majority of the city’s Democrats, and the city as a whole is heavily Democratic — Mayor Lyles defeated her Republican opponent by nearly 20 points in 2017.
That does not mean that white people are cut out of power in Charlotte — the city’s mayor pro tem is a white woman, for example, as is Lyles’ predecessor. But it does mean that citywide elected officials will tend to be politicians who build strong and enduring relationships with the city’s African-American community.
Yet, for McCrory, the fact that a black former detective defeated a white incumbent sheriff is proof of some grand conspiracy. “All primaries,” McCrory claimed, are “determined by the Black Political Caucus,” and this group “totally abandoned the white male Democratic sheriff.”
“And not only did the Black Political Caucus bail on him,” the ex-governor continued, “every political leader — the mayor, Lyles, did not peep a word during this election.”
Of course it is possible that a small group of black community leaders conspired with the mayor and “every political leader” in Charlotte to rob a white man of power. The more plausible explanation, however, is that voters in a largely Democratic city preferred a more liberal candidate who does not want to cooperate with Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown.
In any event, McCrory’s explicit rant against organized black political power is a rhetorical shift from a former governor who signed legislation designed to keep African Americans from casting a ballot.
In 2016, when the fate of North Carolina’s voter suppression law was pending before the Supreme Court, McCrory’s lawyers made the improbable claim that provisions of the voter suppression law would actually increase black turnout (this claim was severely undercut by new data gathered during the 2016 election). As governor, in other words, McCrory tried to sell his voter suppression law as good for black people.
Now that he’s no longer in public office, however, McCrory appears more comfortable telling people how he really feels about allowing black people to gain political power.
From an entirely selfish perspective, his negative view of black voters is understandable. After the appeals court struck down much of McCrory’s voter suppression law, the Supreme Court split 4-4 along partisan lines on whether to reinstate it. If Justice Antonin Scalia, a Republican, had not died a few months before the North Carolina law was before the Court, the 2016 election would have run with the voter suppression law in place.
McCrory wound up losing his reelection bid to Democrat Roy Cooper in 2016 — but only by about 10,000 votes of over 4.6 million ballots cast. Had the voter suppression law been in effect, McCrory would very likely still be governor.
The ex-governor, in other words, has good reason to fear black political power. It’s the reason why McCrory is now a local radio host and a Democrat sits in the governor’s mansion.