The next NC governor?

Josh Stein. Or so that’s where I’m putting my money.  One of the cool things about NYT columnist Frank Bruni moving to Chapel Hill, NC is is forays into NC politics.  He may not have talked to the right NC “experts” 🙂 in this column, but an interesting preview of our 2024 gubernatorial race:

The 2024 governor’s race in North Carolina just got underway. You care.

Not because this state is the nation’s ninth most populous, though that’s reason enough. But because what happens here is a referendum on how low Republicans will sink and how far they can nonetheless get.

Attorney General Josh Stein of North Carolina announced his candidacy last week. At present he’s the likeliest Democratic nominee. He’s a mostly conventional choice, with a long résumé of public service and unremarkable politics. I say “mostly” because he’s in one way a trailblazer. He’d be the state’s first Jewish governor.

The likeliest Republican nominee, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, is also a trailblazer. He’d be the state’s first Black governor. But that’s the beginning, middle and end of anything forward-looking and progress-minded about him, and he’s extremism incarnate: gun-loving, gay-hating and primed for conspiracy theories, with a garnish of antisemitism to round out the plate.

Robinson hasn’t formally declared a bid, and he could face and be foiled by a primary challenge from a less provocative rival. But as Tim Funk noted in an article in The Assembly about Robinson’s flamboyantly combative speeches during Sunday worship services across the state, he was recently introduced in Charlotte as “the next governor of North Carolina.”

Heaven forbid. His election would almost certainly retard the state’s economic dynamism by repelling the sorts of companies and educated young workers attracted to it during the six years that Gov. Roy Cooper, a moderate Democrat who cannot run for another term, has been in office.

And if 2024 smiles on Republicans, Robinson could indeed emerge victorious…

Funk captured Robinson well in that Assembly article: “In the Gospel According to Mark Robinson, the United States is a Christian nation, guns are part of God’s plan, abortion is murder, climate change is ‘Godless … junk science,’ and the righteous, especially men, should follow the example of the Jesus who cleansed the temple armed with a whip, and told his disciples to make sure they packed a sword.”

Robinson’s religion is indeed the whipping, slashing kind. It mingles cruelty and snark. When Paul Pelosi was assaulted in his home by a hammer-wielding intruder, Robinson didn’t offer prayers for his recovery. He expressed doubt that Pelosi was an innocent victim — and mocked him.

He has referred to homosexuality as “filth” and to the transgender rights movement as “demonic.” He’s preoccupied with the devil, whose hand he saw in the movie “Black Panther,” which was “created by an agnostic Jew and put to film by satanic marxist,” he railed in a Facebook post that could have used some copy-editing.

His whole persona could use some copy-editing. It’s all exclamation points.

But that’s his power, too. “Mark Robinson is extremely popular with the Republican base and the Republican rank and file,” Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University, told me. (He has no relation to Roy.) “The reality is that he’s a compelling speaker. And just as many Republicans thought that Donald Trump went too far but at the same time were happy he gave the finger to ‘the establishment,’ Mark Robinson has many of the same advantages.” …

The Republican Party has gone off the rails but keeps hurtling forward, damage be damned. We’d be foolish in North Carolina to trust that we won’t be part of the wreckage.

Yes, it is disturbing to think about Robinson as our next governor, but, honestly, this guy makes Doug Mastriano look like a sensible moderate (and Mastriano got killed in his election effort).  I suspect Josh Stein would love nothing more than to run against Robinson.  Mark Robinson’s shtick may work for a low-information Lieutenant Governor campaign, but no way he survives the scrutiny of a gubernatorial campaign in anything but a truly red wave year (and, as of now, there’s no reason to suspect 2024 to be a great Republican year).  

Of course, the sane Republicans (to whatever degree they exist) in NC know this, too, and it will definitely be interesting to see just what kind of candidates and efforts materialize against Robinson in the primary.  But, Mark Robinson’s all culture war all the time persona certainly represents the Republican base right now and he will be tough to beat in the primary.  Surely, a topic I will be returning to down the road. 

Professionalize (and fund) the police

Great post from Noah Smith on our need to professionalize policing:

So what else can we do when it comes to police reform in the United States? One answer is to look at how other developed countries handle policing.

Where the U.S. lags its peers: training


The advocates of the ill-fated “defund” movement like to imagine that the country in general is over-policed. But when we look at countries in Europe and the Anglosphere, we see that U.S. police staffing levels are actually on the low side. We have nowhere near as many officers per capita as, say, France or Germany.

Source: Wikipedia

As a percentage of GDP, the U.S. is in the middle of the pack. In fact, there is a body of evidence that suggests that the U.S. is under-policed.

What’s different about U.S. police is not their staffing levels or budgets; it’s their behavior. Despite the fact that U.S. cops are relatively few in number, they kill far more people than their counterparts in Europe and the Anglosphere:

And when we look at differences between U.S. policing practices and those in Europe and the Anglosphere, we notice one other big difference: training. U.S. cops have to undergo far fewer hours of training than their peers in other countries before they’re sent out on the job:

Source: ICJTR via BBC

In fact, U.S. cops undergo far less training than cosmetologists or plumbers — professions that don’t require people to carry deadly weapons and make life-and-death decisions.

Source: ICJTR

Do we really think a police officer needs 2000 fewer hours of training than someone who cuts hair and paints nails? Do we really think Australia, with 3500 hours of police training and less than 1/4 our rate of police killings, is getting something deeply wrong? Is it not common sense that cops who haven’t been properly prepared for the violent and dangerous situations they encounter on a job might resort to escalation dominance and demonstrative displays of aggression because they just don’t know how else to react?

Surprisingly, I can’t find good causal studies on the overall impact of police training on police brutality. What I can find are some studies showing good results from specific kinds of training, such as “procedural justice training” (basically, getting cops to communicate more, explain their actions, and respond to concerns) and “de-escalation training”.

Given this encouraging evidence, and the glaring international disparity, and plain old common sense, increasing the required hours of police training in America by a factor of 4 or 5 seems like an obvious policy to try.

Yes, yes, yes.  Every time we discuss policing in my classes we always end up with a consensus on more and better training.  (Right now, far too much of the training is the wrong training– also addressed in Smith’s post).  Let’s do it.  But it will take more of an investment in policing.  Smith also advocates for requiring a college degree.  That would also require more money through higher salaries.  But, if the benefit to these financial costs is safer communities and a dramatic reduction in police misbehavior sure strikes me as worth it!

The one thing I was kind of surprised Smith left out is that when it comes to our insane level of police shootings compared to other democracies is that this is surely closely related to the fact that we have an insane number of guns on our streets compared to other modern democracies. To be fair, that’s an issue beyond policing reform, but in the big picture, our streets awash in guns is surely part of the problem as it absolutely encourages a “warrior” mentality and combat training of the police.  

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