Happy Monday, everyone. Welcome to the first edition of Primer, the INDY’s tour through the morning’s headlines. Our goal is to get you up to speed and on your way quickly and efficiently, with a little bit of insight to help put it all into context. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
1. ICYMI: BARBER GETS THE NYT TREATMENT.
THE GIST: I don’t entirely buy the premise of this piece, at least as it pertains to North Carolina; the Reverend William J. Barber II, until recently the head of the N.C. NAACP, was an activist long before the Trump administration, leading Moral Monday marches against the General Assembly and championing the cause of the poor and immigrants. But it is worth noting, as the Times does, that the religious left—long drowned out by the loud voices of the self-proclaimed Moral Majority—is having a moment.
- Nut graph: “Frustrated by Christian conservatives’ focus on reversing liberal successes in legalizing abortion and same-sex marriage, those on the religious left want to turn instead to what they see as truly fundamental biblical imperatives — caring for the poor, welcoming strangers and protecting the earth — and maybe even change some minds about what it means to be a believer.”
- Money quote: “Rosa Parks didn’t just decide to sit down one day. We can’t choose the moment that the flame bursts out, but we can be the kindling.” —Reverend Barber.
WHAT IT MEANS: Barber stepped down from the NAACP to take up the mantle of a Poor People’s Campaign, based on what Martin Luther King Jr. did a half-century ago. The new effort is meant to focus attention on issues that often seem absent from the national conversation—in Barber’s words, a “larger moral deficit” in which the disadvantaged are ignored by our politics. More broadly, the resurgence of a morally indignant religious left focused on social justice and economic inequality could prove a force to be reckoned, and you can’t help but imagine that if it is, William Barber will be at the front of the pack.
2. HOW N.C. REPS ALIGN WITH TRUMP.
THE GIST: Nate Silver’s FiveThirty Eight has a neat graphic that keeps updated tabs on how often members of Congress vote with or against the president. For context, there’s also a measure of how President Trump performed in the district or state (in the case of senators), as well as a predicted score, based on the representative or senator’s campaign rhetoric. In North Carolina, you get about what you’d expect: the three Democrats voting with Trump about 13 percent of the time, nine of the ten House Republicans and both Republican senators voting with Trump more than 96 percent of the time. The one exception: U.S. Representative Walter Jones, who, though Trump won his Third Congressional District by 24 points, has only backed his party’s leader 61.5 percent of the time.
WHAT IT MEANS: Right now—with the exception of Jones—North Carolina’s congressional Republicans are basically rubber stamps for Trump’s agenda, whether that’s dismantling Dodd-Frank or repealing Obamacare or gutting environmental protections. But Trump isn’t a popular president. And if the Russia probe deepens or another scandal takes hold and Trump’s popularity declines further, will Republicans stick with him?
Related:Attorneys general in Maryland and Washington, DC, say they will sue President Trump for allegedly violating anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution by accepting millions of dollars in payments from foreign governments.
3. PULSE, ONE YEAR LATER.
THE GIST: In the early morning hours of June 12, 2016, a man walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando on a Latin night and murdered forty-nine people, the deadliest mass shooting in American history. Another sixty-eight were wounded. On its homepage today, the Orlando Sentinel has profiles of all forty-nine victims. The Orlando Weekly, my alma mater, has been doing the same thing throughout the last year. If you have a chance, take a moment to read through them.
WORTH REMEMBERING: A few weeks after Pulse, congressional Democrats staged a sit-in to protest Republicans’ refusal to consider expanding background checks and banning gun sales to individuals on the no-fly list. Nothing happened.
Related: Tens of thousands of pro-equality marchers took to the streets to celebrate Pride yesterday. “We’re here, we’re queer, get that Cheeto out of here,” those in DC chanted at the White House.
4. PUERTO RICO (SORT OF) VOTES FOR STATEHOOD.
THE GIST: In a nonbinding referendum, Puerto Ricans overwhelmingly backed statehood yesterday over independence or its current territorial status. Ninety-seven percent voted for statehood; independence and territorial status, the other options, combined for the remaining 3 percent. One huge caveat: participation was only 23 percent, down from the usual 80 percent, as several major parties boycotted the election and the Department of Justice urged the Puerto Rican government to hold off on the referendum.
WHAT’S NEXT: Ultimately, Congress has to act to add any new states, and that seems unlikely. Put aside the question of the election’s validity and focus on the politics: adding Puerto Rico means adding a solidly Democratic state, with two Democratic senators and seven Democratic Electoral College votes. It’s hard to see Republicans going for that. In addition, Puerto Rico would have the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the nation, which would make it all the more unlikely that Congress would welcome it.
5. N.C.: “CANARY IN THE COALMINE.”
THE GIST: NBC News takes notice of something the local media, including the INDY, has been tracking for a while now: that North Carolina has been on the front lines of seeking to curtail civil rights to maximize political advantage since Republicans took over the legislature in 2011: think voter ID, gerrymandering, etc.
- Money quote: “North Carolina Republicans, I think it’s fair to say, have gone further than their counterparts in any other state in using their total control over state government to manipulate election rules in such a way as to advantage their own party,” says Zachary Roth, former national correspondent for MSNBC.com and author of The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy. “We’ve seen that in a number of states, but North Carolina Republicans have been the most brazen and aggressive about it.”
WHAT’S NEXT: Last week, Governor Cooper ordered the legislature into special session to draw new legislative districts, as the Supreme Court had ruled the old ones to be unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. The legislature gave him the finger. Then, on Friday, the U.S. District Court told lawmakers that it planned to act quickly and held out the possibility of new elections this year. In other words, stay tuned.
Related: Today at 4:45 p.m. at the legislative building (16 West Jones Street, Raleigh), the grassroots organization Indivisible NC will be hosting a press conference and citizen mobilization to demand an end to racial gerrymandering and new maps ahead of a hoped-for 2017 special election.
6. ODDS & ENDS:
- The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup, defeating the Nashville Predators in Game 6 2–0.
- Dear Evan Hansen won Best Musical at the Tonys last night, one of six honors it took home.
- It’s going to be hot and dry today, with a high of 91 and no rain in the forecast.
Primer this week is sponsored by Beer Camp on Tour, in Raleigh on June 17. Click the image below for tickets.