Politically, yesterday should have been a slam dunk for North Carolina Republicans. They had a narrow social issue that appealed to their base and a message, no matter how deceiving, that sounded reasonable to most citizens. According to them, they were set to pass a bill that would prevent men from using women’s restrooms. They should have kept it narrow, passed a bill, and gone home.
But they couldn’t help themselves. Instead, they passed a sweeping bill that overrode existing anti-discrimination ordinances across the state, prevented local governments from offering protections for LGBT citizens, and stopped local governments from raising the minimum wage for municipal and county employees. It was a colossal blunder.
Within minutes of the bill passing, national news outlets were reporting that North Carolina was allowing discrimination against LGBT citizens. Twitter lit up with derision, mocking legislators and the state. The hashtag #boycottNC became an instant hit. Red Hat’s CEO blasted the legislation. And one venture capitalist tweeted “Headed to NC in May to discuss how we could invest more in the state. Now the key words will be ‘could’ve invested.’”
McCrory, who initially refused to call a special session but was overruled by the legislature, quickly signed the bill into law, apparently hoping to make it a one day story. The legislators might be protected by gerrymandered districts, but McCrory has to run statewide. He just handed his opponents another issue that will alienate him from the moderate voters who determine elections in North Carolina.
In one of the more bizarre tweets, McCrory tried to blame Attorney General Roy Cooper for the session. In essence, the governor argues that if Cooper had acted on the initial bathroom issue, McCrory wouldn’t have had to shoot himself in the foot by signing the politically damaging bill. Cooper, for his part, immediately released a video blasting the bill, giving his partisans the rallying cry they wanted.
Republicans walked into the legislature yesterday cocky and on the offensive. They left battered and playing defense. In just one long day, they embarrassed the state nationally, set up yet another costly lawsuit, handed their opponents about three election year issues, and energized the Democratic base in a way that not many issues could. In their bullying bravado, the Republican legislature showed why Donald Trump and the modern Republican Party deserve each other.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >