Notebook: Fear and loathing in Cherokee

Posted by John Frank on June 8, 2014 

A political convention at a casino provided a rich lens to explore the dichotomy of the N.C. Republican Party this weekend, one marked by a touch of fear and loathing and plenty of talk about the American dream.

Entering the event Republicans had plenty to fear. A contentious U.S. Senate primary and a contested location cast a shadow on the “party unity” message.

The discord showed at the convention , but not as strongly as the neon lights at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort where it was held. ( Read more here.)

Just before approving the party platform Saturday, Republican delegates voted to soften the language on gambling, meeting a floor above the pit where machines chimed and dice rolled.

The platform statement against it – “we oppose gambling, including the state lottery” – was amended to include a phrase affirming “the rights of the individual” to gamble.

It spurred a brief floor fight as the delegate that proposed the amendment lauded the casino’s economic boost for the area, saying “for us to make a platform that kills jobs is against our Republican way of life.”

A Mecklenburg County delegate rose to oppose the amendment, saying “there are many people down below us right now with their lives being ruined. This is not how we ... grow our economy in North Carolina.”

The debate didn’t dissuade some convention goers from partaking. And the newly built facility received rave reviews from many who attended.

But the convention included a few noticeable absences. One: Greg Brannon, the tea part rival to House Speaker Thom Tillis who finished second in the Senate primary.

Others: the North Carolina congressional delegation. Only one was listed on the program, U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, who represents the area, and even he didn’t stay long.

More loathing came from the reporters – this one in particular –who confronted restrictions on movement imposed by the tribal company managing the casino.

The casino required reporters to check in and out every day, forfeiting a driver’s license for a visitor badge. A security escort also was required any time reporters left the convention area, at one one end of the sprawling complex, to eat, conduct interviews or attend other GOP events, such as the ballroom where the luncheon and dinners were held.

At the plated meals, the security escorts – in dark suits with ear pieces – stood next to the table where reporters filed stories. They followed reporters into the hallway when they left, whether to take phone calls or get food. The tribe also required anyone in press photos taken outside the convention hall to sign a waiver that has to be returned.

The Republican Party distanced itself from the casino’s rules, saying it didn’t have anything to do with them. But it too kept press at a distance by not allowing them on the floor of the convention. Instead, the reporters worked from a suite above the floor.

By comparison, the Democrats allowed the press to roam freely at its convention the same day at the Raleigh Convention Center.

More scribblings sent via mojo wire:

•  The Tar Heel state. In his speech, Tillis sought a historical context for his race against Democrat Kay Hagan.

“It’s ironic that North Carolina of all states would be the state that is most likely going to be where the deciding battle is fought as to whether or not we win this revolution,” he said. “It reminds me of the American Revolution. As a matter of fact, the circumstances leading up to it remind me of the American Revolution. Right?

“We have a leader who is almost dictating like a king. He seems to have no respect for institution of the Congress and the separation of powers. He continues to push more pressure down on the states, give us fewer options and make it more difficult for us to care of our citizens.”

•  The comeback gets an upgrade. Gov. Pat McCrory is fond of talking about the state’s “Carolina Comeback,” his catchphrase to describe the state’s lower unemployment rate and rebounding economy.

On Saturday, in his speech to Republicans, McCrory appeared ready to reach for a loftier term. “If we continue at this rate,” McCrory said, “this is going to be a Carolina miracle.”

•  A refrain. McCrory built his speech around advice he received from his late political adviser Jack Hawke: enjoy the moment.

Hawke died in November at age 72. McCrory usedthe advice as a refrain in his speech as he described his first year-and-a-half in office and assured Hawke he was heeding his words.

The party later approved a resolution honoring Hawke, calling him a “political genius.”

•  Quote. Tillis called McCrory “a God-send.”

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