A top scientist turned down a job at UNC-CH  because the Board of Trustees refused to offer tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones. Lisa Jones, a prominent chemist, turned down an offer at UNC, writing, “The news this week that Nikole Hannah-Jones was denied tenure was very disheartening. It does not seem in line with a school that says it is interested in diversity.” The Board of Trustees is clearly doing harm to the school they are supposed to support and promote. 

According to the Chair of the UNC Faculty, the actions of the GOP have hurt recruiting before. In the wake of HB-2, the school had potential faculty refuse to move to the state. I can only assume the way the UNC Board of Governors treated UNC President Tom Ross put a damper on recruitment of top faculty and staff, too. There’s little doubt that Republican rule has seriously harmed the reputation of our university system and discouraged academic leaders from coming to North Carolina. 

But it’s not just the university’s reputation that the Republicans have hurt. It’s the state as a whole. Under their leadership, our growth rate dropped by nearly half. While we are still growing steadily, we are not growing as fast as we did under Democratic leadership. 

From 2000 to 2010, when the legislature was controlled mainly by Democrats and Democrats Mike Easley and Bev Perdue inhabited the Governor’s Mansion, North Carolina grew by a whopping 18.5%, the sixth fastest in the nation. During the Hunt years of the 1990s, the state grew by an even more impressive 21.4%, the ninth fastest. Under the GOP leadership, the state’s growth slowed to 9.5%. Georgia and South Carolina both grew at faster rates than we did. It’s the slowest rate of growth the state has seen in more than 40 years. 

Republicans like to crow about their tax policies attracting business and people, but clearly they aren’t attracting them as fast as the policies promoted by Democrats. Maybe companies and people don’t like seeing the tax burden shifted from big corporations and the wealthy to the middle class. Maybe they don’t like to watch blatant discrimination like putting Amendment One on the ballot or passing HB-2. Or maybe it’s the assault on public schools, reducing per pupil spending and shifting money to private schools. Or maybe it’s the attack on voting rights and attempts to hold power through rigging the system. Or maybe it’s a combination of all those things. Or maybe we just haven’t done as good a job as other states of making our state look attractive. Regardless, North Carolina is clearly not the destination it was for the fifty years from 1960 to 2010.  

I suspect Republicans will fall back on blaming the media. But maybe there’s method in their madness. Those newcomers are diverse and educated people who are pushing more tolerant, progressive policies and politicians. The GOP is trying to hold onto a state rooted in the past instead of one looking to the future so they prefer a less diverse, less educated population. Maybe they like slowing our rate of growth.

Whatever the reason, our reputation as a destination state has taken a hit. The GOP’s damage will be felt for a long time after they’ve left and, with redistricting coming soon, there’s no evidence they will be gone anytime soon. I suspect we will suffer another decade of embarrassing episodes at the hands of incompetent and often intolerant leaders. Still, let’s hope we do better in the next ten years than we’ve done in the past ten.

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