How to Lose All Your Political Capital in Seven Days

Like King Arthur and his Holy Grail, it is a dream of every politician to jump on that one issue everyone knows is idiotic but no one has the cojones to oppose.

Like “Freedom Fries”—that brief magic moment when the House lived under an edict that any slice and deep-fried potato was banned from being called “French.”

But not even the Freedom Fries fiasco could top this: during the week of the Fourth of July, the North Carolina Senate enacted a ban on Sharia law as a way to restrict abortion.

It was the ultimate two-fer—ripping on abortion and Muslims!

Governor Pat McCrory and North Carolina Republicans tried to
restrict abortion by way of banning Sharia, but that was kinda, sorta unconstitutional. So they tied abortion restrictions to a motorcycle-safety law. Don’t think the public hasn’t noticed.

Actually, there may have been another reason for this push: picking on pregnant women and the way of Allah might have distracted voters from the equally controversial decision to simply end payments to over 70,000 out-of-work state residents even though they had paid for their unemployment insurance way back when they had jobs.

Instead, the fracas sparked more ridicule over what many are calling the most laughable legislature in the nation. It does seem politicians in North Carolina are auditioning to be “Simpsons” characters.

The original anti-Sharia bill was concocted by the same people who earlier supported a bill declaring a state religion. But while that bill was killed, the anti-Sharia law sailed through the Assembly, because there is little outrage over prejudice against Muslims.

Just ask the New York Jets and Oday Aboushi. After the team announced it had drafted the 300-pound linebacker who happens to be Palestinian and Muslim, he became the target of 1960s-SDS-radical-cum-Tea Party-zealot David Horowitz.

Horowitz has a phobia over what he terms “Islamo-fascism,” thus his house organ, Front Page, ran an “exposé” of Aboushi. Not surprisingly, Horowitz printed several demonstrable lies and sadly a few sportswriters attacked the Jets’ and Aboushi. Some have apologized on hearing the truth, but Horowitz’s lies will likely have a life of their own.

This same prejudice would blow a 2009 domestic abuse case in New Jersey, S.D. v. S.J.R., way out of proportion. It was heard before a numbskull local judge who foolishly accepted a defense plea from a spouse who falsely claimed Sharia law allowed him to sexually assault his wife (Islam was the first major religion to give wives the right to “just say no” and to charge husbands with rape but why confuse the issue with actual facts?)

The ruling was so nitwit the appeals court ripped it to shreds. But just as the idea of a “Twinkie Defense” became cemented in the public imagination, the myth of American courts kowtowing to Sharia law became a thing. It was even debated in the GOP presidential primary.

The North Carolina bill is likely unconstitutional. A similar law passed in Oklahoma that banned the use any “foreign law, legal code or system” was struck down by the federal courts because it would also ban practices by Orthodox Jews and even the Catholic Church—the Vatican, is, after all, a recognized “foreign nation” operating under Canon Law. In Arizona, sponsors of another bill actually included bans on Catholic Canon Law and even Karma (fill in your own joke here.)

When Republican leaders realized they had attached abortion riders to an unconstitutional bill, well, damn, something needed to be changed.

Events unfolded this way: after being reminded of his 2012 campaign promise that he would oppose any change to existing abortion law, Republican Governor Pat McCrory announced he was against the Senate bill though not because it attacked Muslims or women. Rather because it hadn’t been enacted properly. He had promised not to sign any bill that was rammed through the legislature without a proper reading and debate.

So Assembly Republicans gutted their anti-Sharia law bill to attach their abortion riders to a bill that fined drivers who failed to give motorcycles the right of way by ramming it through without a proper reading or debate.

McCrory then announced he would break his promise on both abortion and bad legislation in order make North Carolina roads safer for Harley Hogs.

Don’t think the public hasn’t noticed.

The already low reputation of the legislature took a deeper hit in the polls and for the first time, voters didn’t like McCrory either. Eighty percent of voters said they were disgusted over efforts to tie an abortion bill to legislation on Muslims or motorcycles. And while a slight majority of Republicans backed the unemployment cuts, a large majority of everybody else hated it.

Maybe now would be a good time to revisit Freedom Fries.


Peter Lindstrom is a political consultant and researcher. He lives in Washington, D.C.


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