Is Art Pope Behind #ReOpenNC?

Earlier in the week, we saw a ragtag group of shrill evangelicals, right-wing “Don’t Tread on Me” freedom mongers, and air-headed anti-vaxxers and multi-level quack health promoters create a stir on Facebook and lobby the NC legislature to “reopen” NC for business in the middle of a pandemic - a call for reopening that is coming at a time when the US has been hitting new records for daily deaths from the crisis - 4,591 people died Thursday, bringing the US total to more than 33,000 killed by the pandemic.

As the week unfolded, it became clear that #ReOpenNC wasn’t some local grassroots effort - similar right-wing groups in Alabama and Texas, for example, and Fox News pundits rallied a drumbeat for “getting back to business, with President Trump announced a “plan”, if you can call it that, for “reopening America” on Thursday.

Buried in an NBC News story about the protest in Michigan, was a clue on what might actually be going on here.

ReOpen protestors at Michigan state capital

The protest — dubbed "Operation Gridlock" — was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and the Michigan Freedom Fund, a DeVos family-linked conservative group. Protesters were encouraged to show up and cause traffic jams, honk and bring signs to display from their cars. Organizers wrote on Facebook: "Do not park and walk — stay in your vehicles!"

Many ignored the demand. Demonstrators, on foot, were seen waving American, "Don't Tread on Me" and Trump campaign flags. At least two Confederate flags were spotted.

The Guardian published a story this morning highlighting a Koch-connected group staging a protest in Idaho, along with right-wing militia and gun groups, along with extremist evangelical pastors:

In Idaho on Friday, protesters plan to gather at the capitol building in Boise to protest anti-virus restrictions put in place by the Republican governor, Brad Little.

The protest has been heavily promoted by the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF), which counts among its donors “dark money” funds linked to the Koch brothers such as Donors Capital Fund, and Castle Rock, a foundation seeded with part of the fortune of Adolph Coors, the rightwing beer magnate.

Let’s be honest here - it’s obvious this was all some kind of coordinated effort. The involvement of groups backed by Trump’s soulless Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Koch machine gives it away.

NC’s Art Pope - the man who bought his own toy GOP legislature to play with.- has, for years, closely worked with a close-knit group of millionaire and billionaire conservatives, meeting regularly to plan and coordinate dark money donations, astroturf efforts, and dirty tricks - a group that is centered on the Koch Americans for Prosperity organization, Pope and his Civitas political empire, and the DeVos family.

It may be difficult to find proof, unless some underling in that circle slips some copies of emails or cancelled checks to a news outlet, but it’s pretty obvious that there’s been an attempt over the past couple of weeks to create a movement from thin air to undermine the work being done by governors and health professionals to minimize the public health damage of COVID-19 pandemic.

Will it work? A recent Gallop poll would make it appear to be a hard sell to the American public:

Americans' Readiness to Return to Normal Activities, by Subgroup

Immediately - 15%
Wait - 75%

Immediately - 18%
Wait - 73%

Small town/rural area
Immediately - 23%
Wait - 66%

This astroturfing effort has really been organized to serve three purposes - selling the public on Trump's tone-deaf and totally inept response to the pandemic, putting heat on Democratic governors and responsible government officials that have risen to the challenge of the pandemic, and promoting the crass selfishness of sacrificing thousands of lives so a group of Trump cronies can make a few bucks in a crisis.

Keep your guard up - this is just one of many dirty tricks these greedy nutcases will be pulling in the coming weeks and months.