Before the Bush administration invaded Iraq in 2003, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell warned of the “pottery barn rule”—you break it, you own it. His colleagues dismissed his warning and went marching into a war that has left us with instability in the Middle East ever since. That decision will be George Bush’s legacy.
Somebody should have reminded the North Carolina GOP about the pottery barn rule before it rushed to pass House Bill 2—not that they would have listened. Republicans control all the branches of government so they own anything that happens on their watch, whether good or bad. It’s the price of power.
Watching legislative leaders and their partisans try to blame Charlotte is comical. Governor Pat McCrory calling a special legislative session to address a local ordinance was already heavy-handed overreach, but loading up the bill with a bunch of discriminatory and unrelated goodies begged for a backlash. Now, they’re crying foul when the world blames them for their actions.
This summer, the legislature spent eight weeks in regular session and could have amended the law or tried to reach a deal with Charlotte. Instead, they thumbed their noses at businesses, entertainers, and sporting events that threatened to boycott the state over the law. The GOP almost dared them to act.
Now, the bill may cost Pat McCrory his job. Instead of looking for a solution, McCrory, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger demand that Charlotte repeal its ordinance and take the blame for the economic fallout. That’s no way to get to compromise, especially when the GOP is about to suffer political consequences, not Charlotte.
Of course the rest of us will pay a price in less revenue, fewer jobs, and a seriously damaged reputation. That’s of little concern to the GOP leadership in the state. They’re looking for a scapegoat, not a solution.
House Bill 2 has become our school house door. In 1963, Alabama Governor George Wallace stood in the door of the auditorium to prevent integration of the University of Alabama by African-American students. In his run for office, Wallace had pledged, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” In standing by that mantra, he became a hero to reactionary forces across the country but he damaged the state’s reputation for decades.
Like Wallace, McCrory and the GOP are defiantly standing astride the wrong side of history, pointing fingers and demanding capitulation from a culture and country that has them surrounded. Unlike Wallace, though, instead of elevating McCrory, it might bring him down. Regardless, HB2 has probably damaged our state’s reputation for decades. And history will blame McCrory and the GOP because of the pottery barn rule.