Progressives are divided over a Democrat-backed crowdfunding campaign raising money for a North Carolina Republican party office destroyed in a deliberate attack over the weekend. While donors and supporters of the effort insist contributing toward rebuilding the office of their political opponents is a good-faith stand against political violence, critics have charged that giving money directly to political opponents is antithetical to the ideals of people who want to further progressive policy goals.
On Sunday evening, a bottle of flammable material was thrown through the front window of the headquarters of the Orange County Republican Party, which is located in a shopping center in Hillsboro, North Carolina. In addition, graffiti reading “Nazi Republicans leave town or else” was spray-painted on a nearby building.
— Dallas Woodhouse (@DallasWoodhouse) October 16, 2016
“The office itself is a total loss,” Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the state party told the New York Post. “The only thing important to us is that nobody was killed, and they very well could have been.”
“This highly disturbing act goes far beyond vandalizing property; it willfully threatens our community’s safety via fire, and its hateful message undermines decency, respect and integrity in civic participation,” Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said in a statement.
Both major party 2016 presidential candidates responded in predictable ways.
Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning @NCGOP
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2016
The attack on the Orange County HQ @NCGOP office is horrific and unacceptable. Very grateful that everyone is safe.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 16, 2016
Upon hearing the news, David Weinberger, a Democratic partisan and researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, decided he wanted to help. Together with University of North Carolina professor Zeynep Tufekci, technology writer Dan Gilmor, blogger and journalism professor Jeff Jarvis, writer Clay Shirky, and Democratic campaign consultant Joe Trippi, he created a campaign on the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe entitled “Dems help open a NC Repub office.”
“As Democrats, we are starting this campaign to enable the Orange County, North Carolina Republican office to re-open as soon as possible,” Weinberger wrote on the campaign’s web page. “Until an investigation is undertaken, we cannot know who did this or why. No matter the result, this is not how Americans resolve their differences.”
The campaign isn’t an official Democratic party effort. Even without any kind of formal backing, the effort quickly attracted a groundswell of support. Within an hour of the petition going live, the campaign shattered its $10,000 fundraising goal.
However, not everyone on the left felt the gesture—aimed at drawing a line in the stand against political violence, regardless of one’s relation to the ideology of the target—was a moral one. Many progressives took to social media to mock the campaign.
please donate to my GoFundMe to rebuild HYDRA's hidden base, which, let's be real, was probably destroyed by some other branch of HYDRA
— more stew than man (@NoraReed) October 17, 2016
I'm launching a GoFundMe to rebuild the ISIS HQ building in Mosul. Let's show them the true America! Gofund.me
— #JeSuisS&P500 (@ProfJeffJarviss) October 17, 2016
I hope whoever started that GoFundMe page just pockets all the money. It's a better outcome than $13,000 going to the NC GOP!
— Jonathan "Boo and Vote" Cohn (@JonathanCohn) October 17, 2016
On Monday, comedian Moshe Kasher posted his own satirical GoFundMe campaign, mercilessly roasting the original. “On February 27 1933, a Berlin headquarters of the Nazi Party was firebombed,” Kasher wrote, before continuing with mirroring language that drew a parallel between the gestures.
In a viral Facebook post, University of California, San Francisco sociology student Zoé Samudzi broke down the issues some people are having with the campaign:
to be sure y’all following: democrats, in an attempt to display their moral superiority to the NC GOP that passed massive voter disenfranchisement measures AND the wildly transphobic HB2 bathroom law, used their disposable income to help rebuild a GOP office when that money could’ve gone to community organizations fighting against the partisan political forces violating their rights and humanity and making them even more vulnerable.
perfect demonstration of why hillary winning won’t place us in *better* situation, just a nominally less bad one: because so many progressives are too wrapped up in this moral authority of liberalism over conservatism that they’re not bothering to do the things necessary to ACTUALLY bring about positive political change in the form of materially supporting and strengthening marginalized communities.
The North Carolina Republican Party, which is also hosting it own online fundraiser to help pay for the damages, did not respond to a request for comment.
In the comments on Weinberger’s page, people from across the political spectrum expressed their gratitude.
“It is amazing to me that you folks are trying to do a good thing here, a healing thing, and a very righteous thing, and some people are questioning your motives. Amazing. Thank YOU, from a very conservative leaning independent,” wrote one commenter.
“A word in response to the people who think it’s crazy for Democrats do do anything that helps the Republicans in any way. You’re being much too shortsighted. Although this helps rebuild the GOP headquarters, what’s more important is that it’s a way of OPPOSING Trump and his GOP allies. It’s a rebuke to Trump’s conspiratorial ravings, and his attempt to undermine the democratic process. It shows, more powerfully than words alone could, that we regard political violence as beyond the pale — regardless of who commits it,” insisted another.
Beating its goal by over $3,000, Weinberger closed funding on the campaign and instead encouraged people to donate to North Carolina’s public school classrooms through the education crowdfunding platform DonorsChoose.org instead.
Law enforcement officials have not publicly identified who they believe is responsible for the bombing.