By Chad Nance
“I had the misfortune to be nourished by the dreams and visions of great americans- the poets and seerers. Some other breed of man has won out. This world which is in the making fills me with dread…”
– Henry Miller
Remember when college was all beer busts and bong hits exhaled through a toilet paper tube stuffed with dryer sheets so the RA wouldn’t smell it? Those were the days before Kurt Cobain blew his brains all over the wall and Lee Atwater was still a legendary college political activist here in the South. Now the kids are making moves like Richard Nixon or Karl Rove without even blinking or considering the consequences, and none of them have half of Atwater‘s style and none of his sense of humor. This week Leigh Thomas, on record as the College Republican Chairwoman over at High Point University, banned a grassroots college conservative group from coming onto campus and doing voter registration. In doing so she got caught on video expressing her revulsion at the very idea of voter registration taking place on a college campus.
“I understand the registration process,” Ms. Thomas told Bree Binder, a field representative for Turning Point USA, a grassroots non-profit that advocates for Conservative fiscal principles among college students and the young. “I’m just not sure if this is something I would want to have on this High Point University campus, the registration of voting [sic].”
HPU is the school where rich people send their dumb kids who can’t cut it at elite schools. They’ve spent millions of dollars transforming themselves into a Walt Disney version of a university where the one-percenters can install their kids, apparently safe in the knowledge that some of them won’t let crazy notions about democracy and doubting the growing American oligarchy get into their pretty, little heads. Watching the video Ms. Binder made of Ms. Thomas saying these silly things, it becomes clear that the security guards at HPU really defer directly to the students. Must be nice to be so rich that campus security doesn’t hassle you for fear that you’ll call your mommy and daddy and get them canned.
Turning Point USA is a non-partisan political organization that, none-the-less, tends to promote mainstream Republican policy and ideology minus a hard focus on social wedge issues. While they have some experienced political consultants, finance industry veterans, and Republican political operatives listed as advisers, the rank-and-file staff and activist are highly-motivated young people who seem genuinely interested in seeing America adopt a hard-line, conservative fiscal policy. These kids aren’t part of the highly financed and organized Republican political machine like Americans for Prosperity or Civitas. Reading their tax filings it becomes immediately clear that Turning Point USA isn’t part of a larger infrastructure… they’re simply too broke. Poverty, when it comes to politically active 501(c)3 orgs, is the mark of integrity.
That brings us back to the over-manicured grounds of High Point University and little Ms. Leigh Thomas. Bree Binder tried to access the HPU campus this week in order to do non-partisan voter registration… only to be turned away by a student who should find herself on the same ideological page as Turning Point USA. An incident, during which, the student spouted some ridiculous gibberish about being opposed to voter registration drives- particularly those that target college students.
On Thursday morning I was sent a link to the original video that had been posted by Turning Point USA. In a matter of minutes Turning Point USA had switched the YouTube video to private and then given it to another group of college students who do some student journalism on the Conservative “College Reform” website. The move initially caused some suspicion regarding Turning Point USA, but that was quickly cleared up by tracking down Bree Binder.
According to her account, first Ms. Binder spoke to security and gave them a list of contacts that had been used by Turning Point USA when they’ve done voter registration at HPU previously. They put her and Ms. Thomas together. Ms. Binder used her phone to record the exchange. (see video below)
“We’re just registering people to vote,” Binder tells Thomas on the video. “I can show you all the forms and everything.”
“I understand the registration process,” Thomas responds, “I’m just not sure if this is something I would want to have on this High Point University campus, the registration of voting [sic].”
Binder follows up, asking Thomas why she opposes voter registration on campus. Thomas falls back on that old stand-by that the privileged apparently learn early- The “Because I said so” response.
“I don’t want to have any voting registration happening on this campus with students,” Thomas tells Binder on the video. This is the point where you can begin banging your head on the hardest surface you can find and truly mourn for something we are clearly losing as a people.
I spoke with Bree Binder yesterday afternoon. Thomas and the HPU Republicans have not answered my emails. Ms. Binder described a testy exchange where Ms. Thomas was “aggressive” toward her. “It would have been non-partisan voter registration.” Binder said. “We legally can’t promote a candidate or a party.”
Binder pointed out that Thomas claimed to have ordered some informational material from Turning Point USA previously and claims now to have distributed that literature to her fellow students. On Thursday morning Binder received a call from HPU campus security informing her that she and Turning Point USA are hereafter banned from the HPU campus.
So what is behind this ding-bat decision? Has Thomas gotten a crazy notion that “Only liberals like registering voters” somewhere in the un-plumbed depths of this young lady’s mind? Is the state party apparatus so terrified of the mythological youth vote that they have ordered college Republican groups to do whatever is in their power to make sure that no new voters are minted on university grounds? Has Thomas been so conditioned by repetitive exposure to propaganda geared toward convincing Republicans that the entire elections system is rife with fraud, registering voters might be a little gay, and a small group of elites with a right to vote based on economic status might be a pretty good idea down the line?
Is this spill-over from the very real efforts by the North Carolina GOP establishment to clamp down on and marginalized truly grassroots activists and candidates? Those who follow North Carolina Republican politics closely still remember what happened to Tea Party activist, Jessica Hult, in 2012 at the state Republican convention. As she told The Daily Haymaker then, “I’ve been a delegate to the state convention a number of times. I’ve been to the national convention. I’ve NEVER had anyone talk to — or treat me — like this. NEVER. They were bullies, and nobody likes bullies.”
The bullies in question had been a Republican Party attorney and Thom Tillis yelling at her and threatening to sue her for handing out fliers at the event. According to Hult’s account, Tillis and State Senator Bob “Obama is Hitler“ Rucho got in her face because she was handing out fliers accusing the party establishment of meddling in state and local primaries :
“Mr. Tillis was clearly upset. He put his finger in my face and lectured me very sternly about slander and libel. He was the scariest of them all. If the idea was to physically intimidate me, it was working.”
Apparently Thom is a real tough guy with the ladies. There was also the 2013 Executive Committee meeting just after the Republican Supermajority and Gov. McCrory officially took power. There, Claude Pope introduced his “slate” of officer candidates. Phil Strach (currently defending HB589 in court), who chaired the meeting, ended nominations so no nominations could be offered from the floor. This maneuver completely shut the Tea Party and other grassroots activists out of the committee and allowed Pope to pack it with GOP establishment cronies.
Maybe that’s it. Maybe the hook and the handle is that Ms. Thomas simply feels that decisions are better made up the food chain and handing over the power to vote to a bunch of unruly and possibly stoned college kids is a terrible idea from the jump. Of course that is all complete and total horse shit.
Time for some grown-up talk, Ms. Thomas.
I don’t care where on the ideological spectrum a young person finds themselves, there is no more fundamentally productive task in American politics than registering your fellow citizens to vote. If the HPU Young Republicans, and Ms. Thomas in particular, are the future of this country then we as the adults have let these kids down in some basic and awful way. Maybe it is the nasty way adults conduct their political business. Maybe it is the result of a life of sheltered privilege far away from the struggles and conflicts of the real world… either way it is vital for us to turn these attitudes around. College students should be questioning authority and putting their fist in its face- not gently acquiescing to the most self-serving and venal. Kids should be kicking that ass… not kissing it.
Editor’s Note: If the HPU College Dems have any brains or balls they’ll contact Turning Point USA today and invite them onto campus for a little voter reg free-for-all.