Friends, Romans, countrymen (and countrywomen and country-LGBTQ+s), lend me your ears. I come to praise Lieutenant Gov. Mark Robinson, not to bury him.
Chill, homes. I haven’t gotten into the egg nog two months early: I find the lieutenant governor’s recently unearthed remarks about homosexuality and transgenderism just as hateful as you do. But if I have one fault, it’s that I always look for the best in people and try to say something nice about them.
That’s why I applaud Lt. Gov. Marky Mark for sticking to his views, no matter how odious they are. And they're plenty odious.
You know what, though?
I’ll take Robinson’s truthful reprehensibility over insincere contrition any day. It would have been easy for him to feign remorse and say “Sorry, old bean” or claim that his meaning was misconstrued or my all-time favorite: “My words were taken out of context.”
(What context is there, pray tell, when Robinson called then-First Lady Michelle Obama a man?)
Oh sure, he made a perfunctory effort to say that in his latest attack he was talking about providing books on homosexuality and transgenderism in schools, not the actual act or lifestyle.
But we – and more importantly, his political base - knew precisely what he meant. What he said can’t be rationalized or justified, not when transgender and gay people are being attacked and killed for who they are.
The Human Rights Campaign, which calls itself the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, reports on its website that 44 transgender or gender-non-conforming people were killed in 2020 by violence because of who they were. So far this year, it reports, 38 have been killed.
Having the second-highest-ranking elected official in the state railing rabidly against them won’t make them any safer, which is why the HRC called on Robinson to resign.
He won’t, of course, and there’s something to be said for an elected official who eschews the easy, insincere apology and resolutely endures the deserved opprobrium that his remarks elicited.
Also, it’s good politics. Robinson’s comments – spewed from a church pulpit – were as calculated as they were despicable. It’s unlikely that even one person who was going to vote for Robinson when he invariably runs for governor in three years is going to be dissuaded from doing so because he labeled homosexuality and transgenderism “filth.”
If anything, it’ll set his campaign coffers’ registers a’ringin’ when he seeks to succeed Gov. Cooper.
A caller to the newspaper, who identified herself as "a mother, a grandmother and a great great grandmother," vociferously defended his comments and decried the criticism he's receiving.
That's her right, although it’s likely that, prior to the release of Robinson’s rant and the outrage with which it has been met, more people knew who plays second base for the Carolina Mudcats than knew who was lieutenant governor. That poses a dilemma for the person who wears the largely ceremonial crown of light gov: how do I get out from behind the governor’s shadow and grab some of that spotlight for myself?
What to do, what to do?
“Viola! I know: Hate is always a good attention-grabber. If I attack groups that weren’t going to vote for me anyway, I can raise my profile and suffer minimal political harm. Yea, it may even redound to the greater glory of ME!”
I was fixing to memorialize the lieutenant governor with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' anthemic I Won't Back Down, but before the maestro could get on it, Robinson himself had co-opted it for his webpage - playing it in the background as he vowed to stand his ground.
With apologies to Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man, then, here’s my paean to Lt. Gov. Robinson’s new strategy.
Maestro, hit it:
Sometimes it’s hard, Lt. Governor
Being stuck in office behind one man
He gets the spotlight
you get bupkis
So you have to come up with a plan...
But if you hate them
they’ll come for you
And put your mug on the evening news
Not because you’re witty
or all that good-lookin’
But because of the repugnance of your views.
Stand by yer hate
And show the world you abhor them
And if you could you’d deport them
To where nights are cold and lonely
Stand by your hate
And if you’re called a bigot
That’ll just turn on the money spigot
from those who like the vibe that you created
Stand by yer hatred.