Any honest assessment shows that 2013 was NC’s worst annum since 1898, the last time our government imposed Jim Crow laws. Our march backward over the last year was unmitigated by any meaningful progress. The truest verdict on this year is somber, if not grim.

In the course of nine months, Republicans fundamentally changed state government. The first state to tax progressively now redistributes income upward. Our abortion laws, once a qualified hold-out from Southern sexism, harshly limit women’s freedom. HB 589 is, without rival, the most abusive voting law passed by any state in decades. Our meekest neighbors remain the focus of policy–this time not as allies, but as targets.

For this regression, we received well deserved abuse. “North Carolina has become the new Mississippi,” declared a civil rights leader. “Overnight, North Carolina turned into Mississippi,” a respected journalist concurred. With biting accuracy, one comedian jeered that “North Carolina is the meth lab of democracy in America.”

Our fellow citizens took note, and we fell from the tenth most admired state to the tenth most disdained. Rather than reconsider their strategy, state leaders assumed a stance of schoolboy petulance. Some, like Claude Pope, denied the embarrassment outright. Others affected a juvenile relish of it. But in practical terms, they just kept pushing forward.

No one’s response to national criticism was more flippant than Pat McCrory’s. It crystallized when he told Chuck Todd that the controversy over HB 589 was “much ado about nothing.” This comment, so insouciant in the face of weighty matters, mirrored the portrait of the man that has congealed. He appears to be nothing less than a narcissist and a rank incompetent.

As with character, so with governance. Without a thought, our governor signed a smorgasboard of legislation that mocks his promise of “efficiency.” From the general to the painfully specific, he exposed his campaign promises as lies. The legislature did the same. Never has the conquest of politics by entertainment been more damagingly on display.

I wish I was certain things will turn around. But it is no guarantee. Destruction is in Republicans’ DNA. The distracted public requires constant maintenance. Even liberals sometimes choose emotional release over actual victory.

However, I am certain that they can turn around. As John F. Kennedy said, “no problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.” We can solve this problem, and return to the path toward a better future.

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