In North Carolina, a Republican told the truth and was fired for it. This is disappointing to those of us who’d hoped that other Republicans, including Arkansas’s, would begin to lie less.
Don Yelton, a Republican official in Buncombe County, N.C., spoke with a television reporter about the state’s new voter ID law, which is similar to the one in Arkansas that was approved earlier this year by a predominantly Republican legislature. Both states’ laws are intended to make voting more difficult for groups that are likely to vote Democratic — minorities, the elderly, the young — although the laws’ sponsors generally say they’re meant to fight voter fraud (of a kind that’s already non-existent).
But Yelton suffered an attack of honesty during his interview. Asked if he was a racist, he said “I’ve been called a bigot before.” He repeatedly used a racial slur, and he said he favored the new law because “if it hurts the whites, so be it. If it hurts lazy black people that wants the government to give them everything, so be it.” He also admitted the law was politically motivated: “The law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt.”
For a Republican official to tell people the truth is news, and the Yelton interview went viral. He subsequently refused to apologize for his candor, standing behind his remarks. Buncombe County and state Republican officials demanded he resign, and so he did.
It now seems even less likely that Arkansas state Sen. Bryan King of Green Forest, chief sponsor of the Arkansas ID law, will admit that its main purpose is to hurt the Democrats. (Not that it was ever very likely King would be overcome by a fit of truthfulness. He resists it strongly.)
King and his fellow Republicans had to override a veto by Gov. Mike Beebe to get their law on the books. Beebe correctly called the proposal “an expensive solution in search of a problem.”
Interestingly, Buncombe County is the source of the word “bunk,” meaning “pretentious nonsense.” In the early 19th century, a North Carolina congressman apologized to his colleagues for making a long, dull, irrelevant speech on the matter before them. His remarks were meant to placate his constituents, he said: “I’m speaking for Buncombe.”
Over time, Buncombe became bunkum, then bunk. Appropriately so, it would seem. In Buncombe County, they still don’t stand for straight talk.