The Republican effort to remake the electorate in their favor is coming even more into focus. Some of their tactics are very transparent. For all their sanctimonious rhetoric about protecting the integrity of campaigns, everybody knows that the Voter ID bill is meant to restrict voters who would likely support Democrats. Same goes with limiting early voting. And gerrymandering local districts against the wishes of local officials doesn’t even have a thin veneer of good government.
But the biggest impact on the electorate may be their subversive attack on the state’s growth. Under Democratic control, North Carolina was consistently one of the fastest growing states in the nation and regularly cited as one of the states with the best business climates. However, under Republican control, the state has become a laughing stock. In addition, legislation attacking cities and authoritarian moves to control local politics creates the type of uncertainty that scares away the businesses that have been the engines of economic growth.
From 2000 to 2010, North Carolina grew by 18.5%, making it the 6th fastest growing state in the country. Of the almost 1.5 million new residents, about 60% were minorities, the same demographic groups that appear to be the targets of Republican voter suppression efforts. This may explain the GOP’s lack of focus on jobs programs even though the unemployment rate here is 9.2%, fifth highest in the nation.
Governor McCrory came into power saying that our brand was tarnished but that we still had a sound foundation. His moves have belied that sentiment. He wants to wholesale scrap our economic development infrastructure and social safety net and start from scratch. He put forth an ambitious transportation program but offered no way to fund it.
The legislature, for their part, has focused on political retribution and trying to further consolidate Republican power. The crazy bills may have slowed but even this week, they were discussing using silencers for hunting. And what’s scary is they don’t even seem to know how silly they look.
All of this nonsense is bad for business, and, hence, growth. Republicans can best solidify their power by ensuring that people stay out of our state because growth will eventually make all of their gerrymandering and voter suppression ineffective. So far, it’s working. Since the GOP took control of the legislature, 47 of our 100 counties have lost population. They ‘re following the old Vietnam War oxymoron, “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.” God help us.