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Mark Robinson: A Star is Born?

The firebrand, Tar Heel lieutenant governor gave an undercard address to his state party that has garnered much attention---and a look into his background.

He spoke how many wished Republicans would speak.

Recalling first responders on September 11, 2001, the newly-minted North Carolina lieutenant said this month: “We saw policemen, and firemen running to those buildings—basically running to their deaths! To go help others. Because they saw trouble.”

“That’s got to be us, in this day, right here,” the politician continued. “We’ve got to run to the trouble, folks. And what is the trouble? The trouble is the Biden administration that is seeking to turn this country into a socialist hell-hole. The problem is antifa, who wants to roam the streets and beat you into submission. The trouble is Black Lives Matter, [which] claims to care about the lives of black people, but has turned a blind eye, while violence in black communities [is] taking lives at a genocidal rate.”

The missive from Mark Robinson was unvarnished, uncompromising, and, unbelievably, basically a subtle upstaging of the man he preceded in addressing the North Carolina Republican Party state convention. He outdid former President Donald Trump.

One could compare the address to the pathbreaking stuff that launched Barack Obama, if only talk of “red states” and “blue states” contained some undertones of demonic assault by the latter on the former. The speech went viral on social media, where Robinson made his bones years prior. Friends of the black gun rights activist were familiar with the future pol’s fire and brimstone approach to Facebook. As 2020 reared its ugly head, so too would the state party become familiar. So too, would the Tar Heel State.   

Robinson’s political appeal combines three main things.

First, he is an exponent of unvarnished, potentially politically convulsive opposition to “woke” culture enunciated no more defiantly by any other major American politician. But also, he is a hardline social conservative at a time when the country is both rapidly secularizing, while also questioning its purpose, and falling victim to a plainly careening birth rate. Not mincing words, to say the least: “Once you make a baby, it’s not your body anymore,” Robinson told the convention. “It’s Y’ALL’S body. Any yes, that includes the daddy. She’s not your baby mama anymore. She ought to be your wife.”

But, inescapably, Robinson is a black, conservative Republican man in America at a time when the country is seemingly borne back ceaselessly into race, and after an election, paradoxically to many, in which Republicans made mean gains with voters of color. His ascent to Raleigh and now mid-level internet fame has probed examinations into his past—who is this fire-breather who has thrice filed for bankruptcy and had his fair share of trouble with Internal Revenue Service? In a party increasingly at odds with both business and government, perhaps that’s a badge of honor. And his story of rising from work in a factory to work in the political arena in a few short years is, needless to say, as American as apple pie.  

Known, basically, is the Republican establishment’s view of the phenomenon: Party leadership chose to highlight another black man, Sen. Tim Scott from Robinson’s Southern neighbor, as the leader of the official opposition to President Biden’s Congressional address earlier this year. All know that Robinson isn’t exactly Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s cup of tea, nor Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel’s; the Michigander party leader just recognized Pride month. 

In flamboyant terms, where does Lieutenant Governor Robinson think of homosexuality?

“We have pushed homosexuality over the top,” Robinson has written, implying nuance. And then not so much: “Mark my words PEDOPHILLA (sic) is next, which will be closely followed by the END of civilization as we know it,” he said. Driving the point home, Robinson, then a civilian, declared: “Homosexuality is STILL an abominable sin and I WILL NOT join in ‘celebrating gay pride’ nor will I fly their sacrilegious flag on my page.”  

Of course, it’s now not just his personal web page—even his description of his Facebook profile is a little throwback—but a major state, if not much more. One state-level lefty policy blog griped: “Robinson should go ahead and declare for President in 2024.” In seeking to capitalize on minority gains, the Republican brass will confront potentially disquieting questions: What, exactly, attracts minorities to the party now, the party of Donald Trump, demonstrably more so than the party of Mitt Romney? 

For instance, it’s known that turnout for the country’s first black president in 2008 doomed gay marriage in the preeminent progressive clime of California. And at the extreme risk of Tom Friedman-taxi driver journalism, I’ll never forget that the first person to insist to me that Donald Trump would still win the election after the Access Hollywood tape surfaced was a bartender from Juarez, Mexico (because why wouldn’t you build a wall with Juarez, Mexico, he argued).   

The Robinson story is also important because he is from North Carolina: not archconservative South Carolina like Sen. Scott, nor some freak beneficiary of a local election in an exurban part of a heavily blue state. He, in some sense, the real deal: He won statewide in North Carolina during a presidential election. Only two states in the union have this voter card: Obama, Romney, Trump, Trump. And Indiana has proved less of a battleground than perhaps it looked when it voted for the 44th president, only to later send Washington Mike Pence. 

The writer Matthew Schmitz, now back-page columnist at The American Conservative, suggested last September that the future of the American political landscape—that is, the force that will plausibly mount real opposition to soft one-party Democratic rule—will be a coalition of anti-”woke” forces: the traditionally religious, on the one hand, and more secular opponents of what many see as civilizational harakiri, on the other. Obviously a pious man, Robinson’s ability to blend these appeals, and tinker with that balance, should prove critical in revealing if the man is presidential timber. 

And then there are past dispatches like these, on Black Panther: “It is absolutely AMAZING to me that people who know so little about their true history and REFUSE to acknowledge the pure sorry state of their current condition can get so excited about a fictional ‘hero’ created by an agnostic Jew and put to film by satanic marxist … How can this trash, that was only created to pull the shekels out of your Schvartze pockets, invoke any pride?” As recently as this year, Robinson has declined to apologize, in the face of opprobrium of on-side organizations such as the Republican Jewish Coalition. 

What is certain: How Mark Robinson manages his public profile from here on out will determine whether he is or the cutting edge, or merely a man who hands his enemies the sword.

about the author

Curt Mills is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, where he previously served as senior reporter. He specializes in foreign policy and campaign coverage and has worked at The National Interest, U.S. News and World Report, Washington Examiner, and the Spectator, and his work has appeared in UnHerd and Newsweek. He was a 2018-2019 Robert Novak Journalism fellow.

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