North Carolina voters go to the polls on May 8 to decide whether Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee for President, and whether Mitt Romney can finally defeat Ron Paul for the Republican nomination. Voters will also be asked to decide party choices in races of local interest, such as whether Claude "Buck" O'Shields or Derrick Hickey will have the deciding vote on the New Hanover County Commission.
Oh, and also whether the State Constitution should be amended to make discrimination against gay and lesbian citizens the law of the land.
The bad news, for those of us who believe that North Carolina Amendment One is a mean-spirited law unbefitting a great State with a history of resistance to tyranny and standing for liberty, is that polling predicts the Amendment will pass. The latest poll I've seen shows 57% of likely voters support the Amendment, while 37% oppose it. I don't know what the missing 6% think, nor do they.
The good news is that primary polling in North Carolina means very little. Most registered, and even likely, voters don't show up for primaries. And the odds have actually gotten better. The proponents of Amendment One chose the primary election in May, rather than the general election in November, because they expected (or hoped) for an energized Republican turnout in the contest between Mitt Romney and Herman Cain (the frontrunner when the Amendment process began). After the withdrawal of Cain, and Perry, and Bachmann, and Santorum, and maybe Gingrich, their hopes are dashed. The odds are even. The North Republican Party is just as apathetic and unmotivated as the North Carolina Democratic Party.
You, on the other hand, will show up to vote, to punish the partisans of pettiness and rout the rednecks of reaction.
Even if you don't live in North Carolina, you can make a difference. Your instructions follow:
Don't Be Pauline Kael
Political scientists and other nerds love to tell the story of Pauline Kael, a movie critic for The New Yorker magazine, who woke up the morning after election day in 1972 stunned to discover that Richard Nixon would be her President for another four years. The story goes that Kael was surprised because, "Nobody I know voted for Nixon." Whether Kael herself voted is unknown. Whether the story is true is unknown. The point is that pointyheads like Pauline Kael, who lived in the upper west side of Manhattan, are so isolated from mainstream America that they might as well live on Mars.
If you live in North Carolina and you're reading a weirdo libertarian blog like Popehat, odds are that you live in one of a small number of cities: Asheville, Charlotte, Chapel Hill, Durham, Greensboro, Raleigh, Wilmington, or Winston-Salem. In other words, you may be Pauline Kael. You live in a neighborhood full of yard signs that read "Another Family Against The Amendment". You aren't surprised to see that the bumper sticker on the car ahead of you has a rainbow. You can buy overpriced groceries at Whole Foods or Fresh Market or a food cooperative. And because you're surrounded by people who oppose the Amendment, you think everyone in the State opposes it.
You're mistaken. North Carolina is not an urban state. This is not to disparage friends in Ahoskie and Burlington and Cullowhee and Denver and Elizabeth City and Farmville and Goldsboro, but that's where the population is. There are dozens of Farmvilles, and while they don't have a Williams Sonoma at The Streets at Southpointe the way the snooty people in Durham do, they outnumber you, they vote, and they are far more likely, in Farmville, to vote in favor of this Amendment.
But because you think everyone in the State opposes the Amendment, you haven't voted yet. You'll get around to it next Tuesday, if there's no soccer practice, and the weather's nice but not too nice, and you're not having a busy day at work.
And when you wake up on Wednesday, stunned to learn that the Amendment passed, you'll shout at your monitor, "NOBODY I KNOW VOTED FOR THE AMENDMENT!" And you'll probably be right.
But what you won't admit to your friends and neighbors is that you didn't bother to vote at all. (Because the kids had soccer practice; because the weather was rainy and there was a crowd outside the voting station; because the weather was great and you'd been needing to get out and run; because you were hungry and didn't want to skip lunch so you could vote; because you forgot that North Carolina has early voting (deadline May 5); or because you just moved here and you didn't know that you can register to vote if you show up in person, with photo ID, at an early voting polling station on or before May 5. (Though you know that now.))
The choice is yours: Vote today, or be tortured with guilt as your State slides from a 21st century beacon of sunbelt prosperity into a morass of pre-barbarian anarchy, a place where children are tossed into dog-pits for the amusement of The Lords of Bigotry.
Get The Word Out
Have you bothered your friends, family, and co-workers about Amendment One? Isn't it time you started?
You can start small. When you go to the polls at lunch, you will be given a sticker that looks like this:
Even if you're shy, if your workplace is populated by and large of people likely to share your opinion against Amendment One, you can send a powerful message just by wearing this sticker. It will remind people that there's an election going on. (Of course, if your workplace is a hive of bigots, you should throw the sticker in the trashcan, or wear it at home, where your dogs and cats will appreciate your civic virtue.)
From this simple act of defiance against tyranny, you can branch out. You can pester all of the people you know, and even those you don't like the cashier at Whole Foods, about Amendment One, and why they should vote against it. Remember that in discussing politics with your co-workers and family, it's important not to use insulting language. Don't use terms like "bigot" or "fundy" or "homophobe" or "Nazi". The person you're speaking to may support the Amendment, tentatively, or be of two minds.
You should aim to persuade the bigoted fundy homophobic Nazis, not to remind them that you're a smug, self-righteous, hectoring idiot. Don't be these people.
And if you're the sort of smug, self-righteous, hectoring idiot who thinks that all Republicans, or Libertarians, or people of faith (unitarians excepted) are bigoted fundy homophobic Nazis, you might want to question your assumptions. Consider that prominent conservatives, including retired Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr, former Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Vinroot, and John Locke Foundation president John Hood, have all come out against the Amendment. In opposing the Amendment, Hood in particular was eloquent:
I think amending North Carolina’s constitution to forbid gay and lesbian couples from receiving any future legal recognition, including civil unions, is unwise and unfair. In my opinion the real threat to marriage is not the prospect of gay people getting hitched. It is the reality of straight people too quickly resorting to divorce, or never getting hitched in the first place.
Should I assume and say that anyone who supports the amendment, including friends and colleagues, must be a bigot? Should they assume and say that anyone who opposes the amendment must be faithless, or hostile to family values? Not if we want to live and work together in a civil society. And not if we actually want to persuade rather than to preen, persecute, or provoke.
Don't preen, persecute, or provoke, but do persuade. If you persuade a friend to vote against Amendment One, you've doubled your voting power.
If You're Reading This You Can Speak To Anyone On Earth, And Maybe North Carolina Too
Facebook is an irritating mess that I wish I'd never encountered, but it is great for instructing people with short attention spans to perform specific, easily followed tasks: Give me a haystack in Farmville; hit "Like" to show people you care about a Firefly remake; Vote "No" on November 8!
And that's where you come in. Even if you don't live in North Carolina, you know people who do, or you know people who know people who know people who do. Share one of the articles linked above, or do some digging and find your own. Write your own. Become an internet warrior for freedom. When the Amendment fails, you can pat yourself on the back knowing that you made a difference.
If That Isn't Enough, Give
For those so inclined, a small donation to the non-profit Campaign to Protect North Carolina Families, if made soon, will help with get-out-the-vote efforts, a television advertising push for this weekend, and, if necessary, a futile legal challenge to the Amendment in court. There are many other groups opposing the Amendment, but the Campaign seems to be the largest and best organized.
Of course, if we're talking about legal challenges to the Amendment on May 9, we will have failed. The most important thing that you can do is to vote. Today.
(We'll take a final look at the Amendment this weekend, when I will have finished transcribing an interview with a couple directly affected by the Amendment. I'd intended to publish it last week, but aching fingers and other distractions have stymied my efforts. That's no excuse, but it will be rectified soon.)