It didn't take long after last week's election for the well-worn "Democrats vote straight ticket" and "Dems don't know who they're voting for half the time" clichés to raise their tired heads. After it became apparent that local Republicans had taken a thumping, it probably wasn't, oh, three minutes before some hate-radio doof started making excuses and insulting the winning party's supposedly ignorant voters. Betsy Muse, however, noticed something else; something telling; something sadly, but completely, hilarious.
Muse is a Democrat who lives in Union County with her Republican husband of 18 years and two children. She has a political blog called Democratic Muse, and she is also the daughter of Democratic District 1 Charlotte City Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey, whose GOP opposition last week was one David Michael Rice. Kinsey was re-elected by a wide margin, although Rice did well in traditionally Republican parts of District 1, rolling up considerable vote totals in such neighborhoods as Eastover and Myers Park. In fact, Rice won in Eastover, and lost by a mere 16 votes to Kinsey in Myers Park.
Those results are genuinely amazing when you consider Rice's candidacy.
Rice ran in 2010 for the County Commission and the Soil and Water Conservation Board. At the time, his answer to a Charlotte Observer question about his background surprised some readers: He revealed that he was "born Lord God King." Eyebrows were raised, needless to say, and when Lord God King showed up at a voter forum wearing a priest collar, a hardhat and a large cross, calling for instituting "Godly principles," the effect was complete. This year, Rice (or LGK) told the daily paper that his real political party was called "Royal Crown" (no word on whether the party is named after the soft drink or the hair pomade), and that he would "probably be running for governor next year." He was an unconventional candidate, to put it mildly, but that apparently didn't bother the majority of voters in venerable Eastover. After all, those rich white folks know their political candidates like the backs of their hands, right?
The fact of Rice's success in wealthy and white strongholds struck Muse as pretty funny, but she didn't decide to blog about it until after she read comments from the usual right-wing wrecking crew, aka The Angry White Men In The Basement, on the Observer's website.
"They accused Democrats, and black Democrats especially, of voting as a bloc, or pulling the straight party ticket," said Muse. Several of the conservative Internet trolls noted that more Democrats than Republicans vote a straight ticket, to which one charming commenter wrote, "... In other words, the black ozombie voters were community orgainized [sic] and voted for party affiliation regardless of experience." But Muse's "absolute favorite, for its hypocrisy," was a missive from Common_Sense1, who wrote, "... Straight Dimocrat [sic] ticket voters who have no clue as to the issue positions the candidates espouse. Probably couldn't pick the people they voted into office out of a lineup ... If there were basic intelligence tests for voter eligibility, there would be a Republican landslide."
What struck Muse was that, "The night before, as I was looking at returns, I'd noticed the votes in Eastover and Myers Park, which were perfect examples of Republicans doing the same thing the CharO commenters accused the Democrats of doing. It shows very clearly that low-information voters can be found among the wealthiest and most educated of Charlotte's citizens."
You're telling me. As a writer who over the years has interviewed people in nearly every part of Charlotte about politics, I can state definitively that I've never noticed any particular part of town being more knowledgeable overall than others — although, as Muse suggests, many people in the W&W (wealthy and white) crowd certainly will let you know that it thinks it's better informed than anyone else.
I wondered whether Rice had been recruited to run as a Republican, and whether local GOP officials thought Myers Park and Eastover voters knew anything about the candidate before voting for him. Ed Barnes, the former recruitment chair for the county GOP organization, says, "My guess is that Mr. Rice just filed for the District 1 seat like anyone can." Barnes had no comment on Eastover and Myers Park voters' political knowledge, unfortunately. Attempts to contact the local GOP chairman were unsuccessful by deadline.
If a superior knowledge of the candidates and issues was the deciding factor for the W&W's, then it begs the question: Why did so many GOPers in Myers Park and Eastover vote for a man who wears a priest collar, a hardhat and says he was born "Lord God King"? The obvious truth is that a lot of kneejerk Republicans in those parts of town touched the screen for David Rice simply because he had a big "R" next to his name. There's nothing wrong with doing so, per se, but then don't throw stones at Democrats who do the same thing, except for switching out the "R" next to a candidate's name for a "D."