Yelton was fired for saying what the NC GOP won’t

As a guest on Wednesday night’s Daily Show segment on voter suppression, Don Yelton, a North Carolina Republican Party precinct chair and member of his county’s Republican Party Executive Committee, made a number of racist and disturbing comments. Since this segment’s airing, his racist remarks and indefensible commentary on well intentioned voters throughout North Carolina have gone viral and a storm of negative press has risen over his role in the NC Republican Party. On Thursday afternoon, after pressure from both the state and county Republican Party, Yelton publicly resigned.

Yet, throughout this disturbing spectacle and the firestorm that has ensued, something very important- is missing. Mr. Yelton, a self-described “bigot,” wasn’t fired because he made racist comments in his capacity as a Republican Party official on national TV—racist remarks aren’t something new in the GOP camp. Yelton was fired because he said what NC Republicans are too afraid to say in public.

“The [voter ID] law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt,” Yelton said, and with this comment he opened the door on the real agenda of the NC Republican party. This quote, lost in coverage of Mr. Yelton’s other blasphemy may well be the blow that will bring a struggling NC GOP brand to its knees.

Simply put, Yelton revealed the intent of this law was never about protecting voter’s access to the polls; it was about taking away people’s right to vote.

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Even as the NC GOP and the Buncombe County GOP disavow and reprimand Mr. Yelton, the fact remains that as a precinct chair and as a county executive committee member, Yelton was speaking as a GOP insider—he knew exactly what he was saying. To suggest that a top leader in the local GOP doesn’t have the inside scoop is patently ridiculous; no amount of backpedaling or Jedi mind tricks by the GOP can hide the obvious, Mr. Yelton was toeing the party line. And now, he’s the patsy taking the fall for revealing a cavalier attempt at voter suppression.

The truth that the NC GOP is too afraid to admit, is the truth that Don Yelton admitted on their behalf: Republicans are committed to disenfranchising anyone that doesn’t vote their way regardless of age, race, or gender. In GOP-occupied North Carolina, priority number one is “kicking Democrats in the butt,” and until now, they’ve pretty much gotten away with it.

Average citizens whose lives make it such that they can’t wait in line for a new license between picking their kids up from school and working two jobs; grandmothers who don’t drive and haven’t had an ID in years; college students focused on academics and building towards a career —these are the good, hardworking people in North Carolina hurt by the NC GOP’s blatant voter suppression efforts.

If we take anything from Don Yelton’s moment in the spotlight, it should be a certainty that in North Carolina the GOP is not interested in protecting votes. They’re only interested in taking votes away.

Gravatt is a political strategist and campaign consultant living in Washington, DC. He formerly developed youth leadership and civic engagement programs for People For the American Way Foundation, and has been manager and senior staff on campaigns throughout North Carolina and Virginia.  He is a native son of Buncombe County, North Carolina.