Dan Forest goes all in with the far right

By: - October 13, 2014 1:26 pm


Lt. Governor issues scathing attack on marriage ruling, will co-host event with controversial activist who would rewrite the U.S. Constitution

Friday afternoon’s federal court ruling ushering in marriage equality has provoked some very different reactions amongst defenders of the old, unconstitutional law. Most leading conservative politicians have been relatively muted in their comments. Governor Pat McCrory issued a statement on Friday that was fairly typical:

“The administration is moving forward with the execution of the court’s ruling and will continue to do so unless otherwise notified by the courts. Each agency will work through the implications of the court’s ruling regarding its operations.”

House Speaker Thom Tillis – who’s always seemed awkward and uncomfortable in his defense of the constitutional amendment he helped push through in 2012 (he even predicted its eventual demise while campaigning for it) – and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger issued a somber and rather murky statement saying that they would “continue to work to ensure that the voice of the voters is heard.”

To the barricades?

And then there’s Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest. Forest, a longstanding and devoted soldier of the religious right (click here for a refresher on his co-founding of a group that purports to rate retailers for their adherence to “Biblical principles”), pulled no punches in a scathing and over-the-top statement decrying the ruling and, indeed, questioning the legitimacy of the federal judge who issued it. Here are some of the “highlights”:

“Friday, an unelected federal judge violated the foundational principles of this great nation. In 1787, at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and later by ratification, the states relinquished a limited amount of power to a federal government. The document we call the Constitution set out a detailed and enumerated list of powers to be held by the federal government, and in the Tenth Amendment the states left a reminder that ‘the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.’

…Friday’s decision by unelected federal judge Max Cogburn showed how far we have strayed from our founding principles. Not only has the federal government asserted ultimate and supreme authority over every decision of the states, it has done so by the judicial fiat of one unelected man….

Our people will either submit themselves fully to a federal oligarchy of unelected judges or stand up and proclaim that federalism is alive and well. I hope that you will join me in standing against judicial tyranny, and fight to restore the balance of power intended in the Constitution of the United States.”

You got that? North Carolina’s second-highest elected official has quite publicly thrown himself in with the “states’ rights” crowd that challenges some pretty basic and long-established principles of American law – principles like the notion that the federal courts get to decide what and what is not constitutional.

“Judicial fiat of one unelected man”? What is this, 1963? What’s next, a defense of secession?

A predictable reaction

Amazing as this reaction might seem at first blush to the uninitiated, it was, in fact, completely predictable to those who have paid any attention to the Lieutenant Governor’s positions on the issues and his actions since taking office in 2013. Despite his sunny public demeanor and efforts to project the image of a modernizer and a champion of improving public schools, Forest is almost certainly the most far-right statewide elected official in decades.

As reported in this space after his election two years ago, there is scarcely a hard right position (e.g. abolishing corporate income taxes and the minimum wage, championing home schools) or conspiracy theory (e.g. the notion that “Agenda 21” represents some monstrous threat to the American republic) that Forest doesn’t champion. In a speech to the John Locke Foundation after taking office, the Lt. Governor alleged that Raleigh’s News & Observer plants hidden and nefarious messages in its headlines. Forest’s chief of staff – a guy named Hal Weatherman – is a veteran conspiracy monger who has long railed against supposed threats to American survival posed by “radical Islam” (first for Forest’s mom, former Congresswoman Sue Myrick and later for a group called Act! For America).

But one need not look back into the past to see where Forest is coming from (and where he is headed). Check out the event he’ll be co-hosting tomorrow night in Hendersonville. The meeting is billed as a “Convention of the States Townhall.” Forest’s co-star in the event is the controversial Michael Farris. Farris, for those of you who don’t keep up with the goings on of the American extreme right, is the head of  both the National Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College – a controversial and politically active Virginia school that targets conservative Christian home schoolers.

Farris is also the head of the Convention of the States project – a group dedicated to bringing about a second constitutional convention that would dramatically and negatively overhaul the United State Constitution.

As Brian Tashman of the progressive group People for the American Way wrote on the group’s Right Wing Watch earlier this year:

Homeschooling advocate Michael Farris has a new campaign, the Convention of the States Project, which seeks to introduce a constitutional convention to ‘stop the federal spending and debt spree, the power grabs of the federal courts, and other misuses of federal power.’

He told WorldNetDaily yesterday that the federal government “will most certainly destroy American liberty relatively soon,” and that states must be able “to impeach federal officials from their states.”

Farris also said that the Supreme Court should be replaced by a system of ‘50 justices and have the states appoint the justices for a specific term (six or eight years) with no right of reappointment’ that is modeled after the European Court of Human Rights.”

(As an aside, it should be noted that World Net Daily, to which Farris gave that interview, is a truly frightening publication that will print just about any outrageous lie or conspiracy theory to abet its version of the far right agenda).

Going forward

Where the Lieutenant Governor is headed with all of this (and whether he’s really serious about pushing or riding the far right’s amend-the-Constitution scheme very far) is anyone’s guess. Given the assiduous way in which he and his staff have been cultivating local politicians and conservative groups ever since he took office, however, there can be little doubt that Forest has big plans – both for himself and North Carolina (and maybe even the United States as a whole). Moreover, as Saturday’s statement made plain, we can all rest assured that those plans most certainly do not include equality for members of the LGBT community.

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Rob Schofield
Rob Schofield

NC Newsline Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors regular commentaries, and hosts a weekly radio show/podcast.