A deal over HB2 less than two months before an election was always a long shot. Both sides are locked into a campaign narrative and changing it at the last moment adds chaos to an already unpredictable political environment. It was torpedoed, though, before it even got a good vetting.
The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce wanted the deal the most. And they wanted it for the right reasons. Their members are losing business and money because of boycotts. The state, too, will lose a lot of revenue because of the consequences of the bill.
The business groups, though, didn’t seem to handle the situation as well as they should have. Apparently, they were talking to the Governor’s office without talking to other stakeholders. To succeed, everyone needed to be at the table before the public knew very much.
When news of the deal came to light on Friday afternoon, Speaker Tim Moore and President Pro Tem Phil Berger were clearly out of the loop. So was Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts. The stakeholders, particularly EqualityNC, were also in the dark. For the deal to work, all of those folks probably needed to be at the table.
By Saturday, Moore all but killed the deal. He issued a statement calling on Roberts and the Charlotte City Council to “fully and unconditionally repeal their ordinance” without promising anything in return. He also blamed them fully for the current controversy. On Sunday, Berger had joined Moore in pointing fingers at Charlotte and calling on them to act first with no assurances.
Instead of offering an olive branch, the GOP called for full surrender from the group that has the upper hand. House Bill 2 is widely unpopular and the GOP is seen as responsible for it. Democrats and leaders of the LGBT community showed they could dig in just as hard. By Monday morning, the deal was over when Roberts announced repeal of the ordinance would not be taken up at the council meeting that evening.
The Governor, the NC Restaurant and Lodging Association and the Chamber should have been a little more patient and strategic, but the GOP really scrapped the deal before it had a chance. The appropriate response was silence, not calling for capitulation. Either they didn’t want a deal or they’ve lost the art of governing after so many years with so much control.
In the real world, Charlotte could repeal their ordinance and it would have no impact on the boycotts facing the state. Repeal of HB2 is the only way the economic pressure will be relieved. The responsibility for fixing the mess is with the Governor and the legislature, not with Charlotte.