People can't stop talking about the 2020 election, but the 2018 election is not over. On Tuesday, September 10, voters in North Carolina's 9th District will head to the polls and select their next Congressman.
The race is between Democrat Dan McCready and Republican Dan Bishop.
This seat was on the ballot in November 2018, but the result was thrown out because Leslie McCrae-Dowless, a campaign operative working for Republican nominee Mark Harris, committed massive election fraud. Key aspects of the fraudulent scheme were first exposed in Popular Information.
The North Carolina Election Board ordered new primary and general elections after a dramatic hearing in which Harris' son told the board that he warned his father against hiring McCrae-Dowless because McCrae-Dowless' tactics were illegal. Harris previously claimed he had no knowledge of the scheme and no reason to suspect McCrae-Dowless was breaking the law. Last week, McCrae-Dowless was charged "with two counts of felony obstruction of justice, perjury, solicitation to commit perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice and illegal possession of absentee ballots."
With Harris out of the picture, Bishop prevailed in the May 14 Republican primary. But Bishop comes with his own baggage.
After two mass shootings over the weekend, the country is grappling with the impact of online communities that cater to white supremacists. The El Paso shooter posted his manifesto on the hate site 8chan.
Bishop is an investor in another online community that welcomes white supremacists, the fringe social media network Gab. On August 17, 2017, Bishop announced that he had invested in Gab as part of a crowdfunding campaign. "I'm about done with SF [San Fransisco] thought police tech giants' Big Brother routine," Bishop said on Facebook.
A little more than a year later, a gunman entered a Pittsburgh synagogue and murdered 11 people. The man was an active user of Gab, which he used to post anti-Semitic screeds and preview his attack. "I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I'm going in," the killer posted on Gab just before the massacre.
Bishop plays dumb
After the Pittsburgh shootings, Bishop claimed that, when he made his investment in Gab, he had no idea the site was used by white supremacists.
I made a $500 crowdfunding investment 14 months ago in a startup called Gab, which promoted itself as a new, unbiased social media platform. I don’t use Gab, but if its management allows its users to promote violence, anti-Semitism, and racism on the platform they have misled investors and they will be gone quickly, and rightfully so.
In his Facebook post, Bishop said he learned about Gab from an article in the Washington Post. The title of that article? "Silicon Valley escalates its war on white supremacy despite free speech concerns."
The Washington Post described how tech companies had "escalated its war on white supremacy...choking off the ability of hate groups to raise money online, removing them from Internet search engines, and preventing some sites from registering at all." Gab is presented as one of several companies building "another type of Internet" where white supremacy and hate speech would be welcome.
The notion that Bishop did not know that Gab permitted anti-Semitism and racism at the time of his investment is not credible.
Bishop's response to the white supremacist murder in Charlottesville
Days before Bishop's investment in Gab, Heather Heyer was murdered by a white supremacist while protesting a racist march in Charlotteville, Virginia. Bishop responded on Twitter by equating white supremacy with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Bishop was asked if he was comparing a civil rights movement for African-Americans with people waving the Nazi flag. "Yes. Both violent, racist movements," Bishop replied.
Bishop's 2019 campaign adopts white nationalist meme
Before the gun massacres over the weekend, Bishop was touting his endorsement by the NRA and trashing McCready as an "ultra-liberal gun grabber."
After 31 people were murdered, Bishop stopped running the ad but did not even make a perfunctory post acknowledging the tragedy. Instead, Bishop tweeted incessantly about how various Democrats commenting on the mass murder and white supremacy were "clowns."
Whether he knows it or not, Bishop is adopting a trendy white nationalist meme. It starts with "Honkler," a variation of Pepe the Frog dressed up as a clown. The meme is then used to dismiss "the illogic of a liberal, non-racist society." The Forward reported on the trend this May:
Other online anti-Semites have built upon the Honkler imagery when citing news that confirms their nihilistic worldview. When describing what they see as the illogic of a liberal, non-racist society, they write that they are living in a “clown world,” or just write “honk honk” as a shorthand to get that point across.
...On April 22, two members of the American Identity Movement - the white nationalist group formerly known as Identity Evropa - dressed as clowns and entered a New Orleans public library to disrupt a children’s story time program being led by local drag queens. “Welcome to clown world, honk honk,” their sign said.
Honkler and the white nationalist clown meme is particularly popular on Gab.
Bishop's anti-gay history
If you've heard of Dan Bishop before, it's probably because, as a North Carolina state senator, he was the architect of H.B. 2, a bill that discriminated against trans people. The bill prohibited trans people from using the restroom that matched their gender and invalidated local laws protecting LGBTQ people. It also prohibited localities from passing legislation protecting LGBTQ people in the future. Bishop and other supporters said the bill was necessary to protect the "safety" of women and children -- a claim with no evidence to support it.
The bill was signed into law in March 2016, prompting many companies to announce they would no longer do business in the state. It was partially repealed a year later after projections that it would cost the state $3.7 billion in lost business and the state was on the verge of losing the NCAA tournament.
North Carolina's 9th District leans Republican, but a recent poll shows the race even with about a month to go. Republicans are concerned they might lose the seat. A Super PAC controlled by GOP House leadership just launched a $1.65 million ad campaign targeting McCready and the National Republican Campaign Committee has committed to another $2.6 million in ads supporting Bishop. While McCready's fundraising has been strong, Democratic groups have not spent heavily on his behalf.
Thanks for reading!