Dear readers, it's time to revive Pundit Gut Checks, a Boomer With Attitude tradition we've neglected for too long. PGC is where you get a glimpse of how pundits produce a proper column that readers will love, when what the writer really wants to do is cuss all day at the latest nonsense from some powerful jackass. Many pundits — most of them, if conversations with some of them are an indication — create columns by taking their initial gut reactions to news items and transforming them into clear, reasonable works of journalistic art (ahem). To show you what I mean, here are some recent news items, followed in each case by my gut reaction, and then by a carefully crafted commentary more suitable for a column.
Item: DMV tries to revoke driving privileges for reprieved immigrants.
Gut reaction: F-in' spiteful bigots ...
Final version: The DMV's decision to deny driver's licenses to participants in the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program seemed more like spite than a considered decision. The Obama administration used DACA to tell immigration-related federal agencies that, for the next two years, they should lay off prosecutions of undocumented immigrants under 30 who came to the U.S. before they were 16 and have kept their noses clean. The DMV, in the face of common sense and federal authority over immigration, decided to deny driver's licenses to DACA participants rather than wait for a decision on the issue from N.C.'s Justice Department. That decision came the next day, when Deputy Attorney General Grayson Kelley sent DMV Grand Wizard Eric Boyette a blistering letter saying, in essence, "Duh! Give them two-year licenses." DACA infuriated many North Carolina Republicans, so it's no surprise that the DMV, never known as a bastion of liberalism or sensitivity, acted quickly once the new GOP administration and legislative majority took over in Raleigh. It's a tough break for Boyette that his ploy blew up in his face, but at least now he's on the new bosses' good side. That doesn't help said new bosses, though. Despite all the studies showing that the GOP can either come to terms with Latinos or eventually disappear, they pulled this kind of old-school, throw-red-meat-to-the-racists stuff. A number of studies show that most conservatives naturally resist absorbing new information that disagrees with their beliefs, but the DMV's actions last week went beyond the call of rightwing duty and has won our Willful Stupidity medal.
Item: Gov. Pat McCrory's approval ratings have already dropped.
Gut reaction: WTF? He hasn't been in office a whole month — how could the average half-wit North Carolina voter have had time to change his/her mind?
Final version: Public Policy Polling is a highly competent company; their record for accuracy in the 2012 elections belied GOP complaints that PPP "leans left," so I don't doubt their numbers when they say McCrory's popularity has dropped 8 points in a month, to 45 percent — which, in any case, isn't that bad, considering Americans' ever-growing contempt for politicians. But first — and I say this as someone who's never shied from criticizing McCrory — after less than a month in office, who cares? Second, is this what we have to look forward to? Constant, non-stop polling about every little thing? (For example, PPP also says most Panthers fans want the team to keep coach Ron Rivera, just in case you were wondering.) Third, North Carolina voters aren't exactly keeping an eye on McCrory's fledgling administration: A plurality of voters (45 percent) don't know enough about the governor's cabinet picks to even have an opinion. As if that's not oblivious enough, 69 percent are "unsure," i.e., don't have a clue, about Gov. Pat's budget director, Art Pope — a man whose influence on North Carolina politics has only been the subject of something like a thousand articles in the past year, including a major piece in the New Yorker that received copious national attention. PPP's headline should have read, "McCrory popularity drops, but then again, what do North Carolina voters know?"
Item: Chapel Hill's town Council passed a resolution calling on the General Assembly to promote unbiased medical information for pregnant women, free of the intimidation and harassment in "crisis pregnancy centers" — organizations that, in the guise of experts and "counselors," serve as mouthpieces for the anti-choice movement and fearmongers.
Gut reaction: Wow. Why in the hell can't Charlotte City Council pass progressive resolutions like that?
Final version: What a great idea. Why can't Charlotte City Council do the same thing?