Red herring argument disguised as pink flamingos

Posted On 01 Aug 2013
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20130718civitasby Victoria Wakefield

Last week, Progress N.C. turned the front yard of the N.C. General Assembly into a plastic pink flamingo zoo.

According to the people assembling the classic lawn ornaments outside of the Legislative Office Building, the liberal group’s efforts were to demonstrate their desire to “Protect early voting!” and “Show the legislators that we don’t want to turn into Florida!”

Not able to connect the dots yet? Me neither.

“So the flamingos represent voters?” I asked.

Justin Guillory, research and communications director of Progress N.C., chimed in. They were supposed to represent the voters of each North Carolina county, via a number etched in permanent marker on the tops of the flamingos. Guillory explained that the plastic birds were meant to represent the long lines Floridians purportedly faced at the polls in 2012 and we in North Carolina supposedly would face if legislators cut early voting days.

So, just for fun, I asked what bill had proposed the cuts.

“Uh, 583? Yeah, 583,” someone shakily stated.
“No, 587! Definitely 587,” said another, more confident flamingo-assembler.
“Ha, it’s something like that,” the first replied.

The Voter Identification Verification Act, short title VIVA, is House Bill 589. Initially, the bill was focused on Voter ID. Since it was introduced, many necessary reforms to state voting laws have been added.The most shameful part of this response? Guillory stood by and corrected no one. That leads me to two conclusions: either he did not care enough to correct his minions, or he didn’t know either.

Much like a commuter at 5 p.m. on I-40, I decided to come back to watch the inevitable wreck that would be their main event — a press conference.

Guillory approached the podium wearing what appeared to be a Hawaiian leisure shirt, with all the buttons undone. So much investment in the theme, yet little to none on the topic.

I knew I was not going to agree with their points, but I certainly can appreciate a good counterargument to my own beliefs. But this was not one of those times.

Guillory warmed up the crowd of about 15 people with some flamingo facts and jokes. That was probably the most valuable part of the entire “press conference.” The irrelevant factoids about why flamingos stand on one leg and that they are native to Florida, however, failed to distract anyone from the fallible and disjointed argument that was to follow.

Guillory asserted that cutting the early voting days would create longer lines and the long lines that had “embarrassed” the governor of Florida, Republican Rick Scott, would embarrass our governor as well.

That was pretty much his argument. Guillory briefly mentioned the “tedious” Voter ID components, but failed to put a single concise sentence together on what was so bad about Voter ID. In fact, he mentioned some points in accord with the logic that Voter ID would protect voters. His massive backdrop of supporters amounted to 12 people. I counted.

Guillory introduced another speaker, Bob Hall of the liberal group Democracy N.C. He rambled on about a “record Republican turnout” in the state last November, but then continued to say that the Republican Party is “threatened” by the Left and has responded with this legislation that “they should have done two months ago” instead of supposedly sneakily bringing it in at the end of the session.

When time came for Q&A, the duo of Hall and Guillory fizzled.

Guillory embraced his Hawaiian shirt persona with feisty yet nonchalant responses — not answers — to the questions of reporters. The final question that was asked seemed simple enough: a meager challenge to Hall’s condemnation of legislative action so late in the session.

“But, don’t you think that the legislators were waiting for a ruling from the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act before [working with the bill]?”
“You’ll have to ask them.”

I wonder what they’ll do with all those flamingos once their protest is over.

— Victoria Wakefield is an intern at the Civitas Institute in Raleigh.

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