Elections have consequences. In NC, they have had profound consequences. We are now relegated to serve as a cautionary tale for our neighbor states. Down ticket races matter. 2016 matters greatly, but Virginia’s 2017 state races are also among the most important you will ever face. Will you follow the way of your neighbor to the south? If it can happen in NC, it can happen in VA.
Last week, I posted on the outrageous North Carolina HB2 and its hate-filled legacy. The hate part of it, which especially abuses transgendered persons, would be bad enough, but there was much more. The bill removed all present and future local anti-discrimination ordinances in the state, including fair housing ordinances. In NC, people can now be fired for their gender, race, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. The law cements the years-long effort by the General Assembly to demolish local control. It bans anti-discrimination lawsuits. It forbids any local ordinances requiring workers to be paid living wages, or any benefits not required by state law. And it has a severance clause which retains portions of the law if one part is struck by the courts, thus making complete repeal even more difficult. But as others have noted, I believe there was something else.
The creators had to know that they would create a situation potentially causing NC to lose federal education dollars (over $4 billion for NC). Indeed, the Obama administration is already looking into the matter. Should we lose that funding, public schools would be crippled. Anyone with kids and grandkids in the public school system (the latter of which I have) would be distraught.This consequence was not an accident. This was a complex and orchestrated bill brought to you by the (yes, evil) “minds” at ALEC. Though mobilized for years against the GOP General Assembly majority, the citizens of NC have just begun to fight. But incrementalism in response won’t do it. We need widespread restoration of 100 years of progress.
This happened in a purple state, not just because of hateful Republicans in the General Assembly. It happened also because Democrats stayed home in 2010 and again in 2014. That first win by the GOP cost us the upper hand in redistricting, which heretofore was admittedly messy. But when the GOP did it, they redistricted to the nth power worse than Dems had ever done. Never had the electronic tools to manipulate house by house that are available now been available to Democrats.
It is with a heavy heart that I enumerate what, in addition to the above, we have lost. The heart of the NC Voting Civil Act was gutted. An anti-gay-marriage bill passed (but was later nullified by SCOTUS). The Department of Environmental Quality was gutted and rendered mostly useless. Our once-prized position among a small number of states investing significantly in solar energy is upended. Science denying became recognized and endorsed by the legislature. Climate scientists were intimidated and forbidden to study sea level rises.
Medicaid expansion was rejected, leaving half a million residents without health care. The fracking moratorium was lifted (and the area targeted for exploration is too close to a nuclear plant). Schools have suffered major budget hits with charters and private school vouchers heavily cutting into funding. Funding per student is near the bottom. Teachers are leaving the state in droves. The unemployed suffered huge cuts to unemployment benefits. The governor’s cronies botched a new computer system for medicaid completely mangling mailings to those needing services. Right wing pols took over the wonderful University of North Carolina system, including the oldest public university in the nation.
Food stamps were cut. Working North Carolinians now pay more in taxes while the rich pay less. More absurd and inhumane restrictions have been placed upon women’s reproductive health. Anti-immigrant policies are in place. Vote suppression is the order of the day. It took 50 pages to create the electoral mischief. Tens of thousands have been impacted and some have been on an endless loop in which they can never satisfy bureaucrats in order to get a voter ID. A preview of this fall played out this March: massive lines. The intentional hate, misogyny and general misanthropy of the North Carolina General Assembly has been laid bare for all the world to see.
The response has been swift: Conferences cancelled, travelers banning our state from their agendas, companies banning travel by their employees, companies refusing to move here. Some companies threaten to leave. This is profound, folks. This hits everyone, including all the innocent people who have turned out at the polls, rallied, fought for North Carolina (some even jailed on principle). Almost certainly, the worst is yet to come. Our pitiful governor, Pat McCrory, plays liars poker with the press. He has no intention of backpedaling. He could have vetoed rather than signed the legislation. But he’s just a stooge of his Art Pope/Koch brothers backers. The smug leaders in the General Assembly don’t intend to backpedal either, but instead have more “hunger games.” The importance of a Democratic governor is obvious, as illustrated by Gov. McAuliffe’s recent veto in Virginia. Don’t “North Carolina” Virginia. And don’t think it can’t happen there. It can, when you least expect it.