RALEIGH — Moral Monday protesters aren’t the only ones rallying on Halifax Mall this week.
The N.C. Republican Party has asked conservatives to gather at 5 p.m. Tuesday for “Thankful Tuesday,” a meeting planned by a coalition of groups to thank legislators for their work. The event will also allow for networking between Republicans and supporters.
It isn’t a counter-protest to Moral Mondays, the left-leaning demonstrations that have garnered national attention for the past 10 weeks, said Mike Rusher, the state GOP’s chief of staff.
“We want to tell our state legislators that we’re basically proud of what they’re doing,” said Joe Taylor, a member of the Moccasin Creek Minutemen, a conservative group that is helping to host the event. “They catch a lot of grief on Monday.”
Slated to speak so far are Clarence Henderson, a conservative speaker and participant in a 1960 sit-in to protest racial segregation in Greensboro; N.C. Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope; and Joyce Krawiec, the N.C. GOP vice-chairwoman. Rusher invited state legislators, but none had confirmed as of late Monday. A reception will follow in the Rotunda.
Speakers will focus on two key issues, tax reform and Voter ID laws, Rusher said.
“We actually have overwhelming support for Voter ID, and we’re happy to be moving on that one as well,” he said. After a state Voter ID bill sat in a Senate committee for two months, a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the 1965 Voting Rights Act has brought it back into play. The bill will come up in the Senate Rules Committee this week, said Chairman Tom Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican.
Francis De Luca, president of the Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank, said he doesn’t support holding an event like Thankful Tuesday. The left-wing groups that gather on Mondays have more heft than Thankful Tuesday organizers. If the GOP did manage to draw a big crowd, it’d be quite a success, he said.
“It’s a lot harder to get people to come out and support things that people are doing than it is to get them to rally against something,” De Luca said.
Republican leaders want to reward legislators for sticking to their principles during a tumultuous session, said Donna Williams, the Wake County GOP chairwoman. The event has evolved over time – its name changed from “Truthful Tuesday” to “Thankful Tuesday.”
During Monday’s protest, the Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper said she demonstrates because she wants to have a conversation with Republican lawmakers.
“I find it puzzling” that they’d set up a separate event, she said. “But if I had been invited, and I knew it was an open event and an open invitation, I would do my best to be there,” she said.
Before the announcement of Thankful Tuesday, De Luca said conservatives probably wouldn’t protest; Moral Monday protesters “do it to get publicity,” he said.
Republicans haven’t fought back in public demonstrations because “it’s hard to get excited when people are claiming it’s about morality … (but) it’s about money. It’s a stunt.” Most people he’s spoken to were dismissive of the protests. Even though Thankful Tuesday isn’t technically a protest, he didn’t see its merit.
“People, when they vote for people, they expect them to do what they voted for them to do,” he said. “So why would I thank you for doing that in the first place? It’s kind of like expecting a bonus for doing your job.”