When I was a kid growing up in a small North Carolina town, they taught us that Reconstruction was a time of hardship and deprivation. Carpetbaggers came down from up North to take advantage of the defeated Southerners through political corruption and generally plundering the war-torn region. They were essentially profiteers who exploited southern labor and southern land without giving much back.

I didn’t know any Yankees back then and I was pretty sure I didn’t want to. We ascribed the term Carpetbagger to anyone from out of state who came to North Carolina and tried to get involved in business or government. We were sure their motives were dubious.

College and traveling changed my views. I still made occasional jokes about Yankees, but increasingly, many of my friends were from other states, often from up North. They came here because of what North Carolina had to offer and they respected our people, culture and institutions, at least most of the time. The term Carpetbagger essentially lost its meaning for me except in its historical context.

And then the Carpetbaggers came back. Pat McCrory, Phil Berger, Thom Tillis, carpetbaggers all. It’s not that they’re not from here. It’s that they don’t respect our institutions, our history or our culture. They have no appreciation for the work we did as a state to modernize and avoid the Third World mentality that defines other Southern states.

For the past 50 years, our leaders, Democratic and Republican, kept our basest instincts at bay. While we weren’t perfect, we navigated Civil Rights better than our neighbors and put faith in education. We argued around the margins, but at our core, we were a centrist state, known for good government and a destination for businesses and families.

But these guys, they don’t come with any sense of history or moderation. No, they just see this state as a place to plunder and its people as a source of cheap labor. And they’ll rile up the ugliest part of it to get what they want. They’ll put discrimination on a ballot. They’ll pay off religious zealots to secure a regressive tax system. The will tear down all we built in the name of profit.

Tillis and Berger are the worst. They’re political opportunists, putting political ambition ahead of good public policy. McCrory? He’s just dumb as a box of rocks. After that press conference, it’s quite obvious that he has no idea what state government does or what he’s supposed to do. Just a bunch of Carpetbaggers out to plunder and profit. What a shame and disgrace.

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