Republicans have taken North Carolina into unchartered territory and in the process awakened a portion of the electorate that doesn’t want to be there. A cross-section of North Carolina’s population is proud of its reputation as a moderate, enlightened state and are horrified by the ridicule and negative press that we received from across the country. These are the people who showed up on Moral Mondays. They came in droves and looked remarkably like the state as a whole–young, old, black, white, hispanic, gay, straight.
The Republicans dismiss the protesters as whining liberals dismayed at being out of power for the first time in 100 years. But their own response to Moral Monday, Thankful Tuesdays, told us more about the Republicans than the protesters. Thankful Tuesday was made up of about 200 white people, one Asian woman and an Africa-American man. That pretty much reflects the GOP coalition today–a monolithic party in an increasingly diverse society.
But it’s not just the protesters that the GOP dismisses. They’re waving off the criticisms of every major newspaper in the state, many of whom endorsed Pat McCrory. They are ignoring experts who say their tax cuts alone won’t stimulate the economy or increase revenue. Instead, they are listening to debunked ideologues from the 1980s still peddling what George Bush the First called “voodoo economics.”
In the make up of the Republican leadership, Phil Berger is a true free-market ideologue, Thom Tillis is a soon-to-be failed candidate for U. S. Senate and Pat McCrory is a hapless mayor with neither the brain power nor the political savvy to challenge the ambition surging through the legislative leadership. Redistricting will protect the GOP majority for another cycle or two, but I bet Pat McCrory’s gone after one term and the GOP will find itself in another lengthy exile once reason and moderation is back in control.
This group of Republicans have no sense of history, even recent history. In 1994, the GOP took control of the state house and almost got control of the senate. There was a movement among Democrats to move the party to the right. Instead, under the leadership of Jim Hunt, they reframed the debate and made it about education. Overwhelmingly, people wanted smaller class size, better teacher pay and early childhood education. Support for the university system was so high that the state passed a $3 billion education bond, at the time the largest in U. S. history. Democrats battered Republicans with their opposition to public education for the next 10 years.
Less than 20 years later, we’ll fight these fights all over again and Republicans will lose. Their attempts to protect their majority by restricting voting is an affront that will serve as an organizing tool and rallying point for the very people the GOP seeks to disenfranchise. Republicans squandered a valuable opportunity to fix what was broken and show that they could govern responsibly. Instead, they’ve veered hard right and divided our proud and moderate state. For that, they will eventually pay a steep price.