So the hammer has fallen. The Department of Justice has declared HB2 violates the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Needless to say, these findings portend disaster.

GOP leaders’ response has been just as disturbing. It is not hyperbole to say they have imitated Segregation-era anti-civil rights reactionaries.

It begins with language. They have echoed Brown v. Board critics by denouncing a civil rights enforcement action as “federal overreach.” In an eerie parallel, McCrory said, “This impacts every state, every university, and almost every employee in the United States of America. All those will have to comply with new definitions by the federal government…” His statement recalls the “Southern Manifesto’s” fulminating complaint that “[T]his unwarranted exercise of power by the Court…is creating chaos and confusion in the States principally affected.”

Moore’s claim that “we’re not going to get bullied by the Obama Administration” reeks of the Segregationist claim to have been tyrannized by the Courts. Don’t expect NCGA conservatives to print up a new set of “Impeach Earl Warren” stickers, but some of them surely feel the temptation. They share the view of segregationists that state policymakers are victims of the federal government. It is the victim complex of victimizers.

These parallels extend beyond the realm of rhetoric. Unlike their North Carolina predecessors, McCrory, Moore and Berger have adopted a stance of what amounts to Massive Resistance. That is to say, faced with a civil rights mandate, they are doing everything in their power to thwart the feds. The original Massive Resisters refused to integrate their schools. Moore and company are aggressively stonewalling DOJ’s demand that they walk back HB2.

Gene Nichol landed in hot water for analogizing Pat McCrory’s conduct to that of Lester Maddox and George Wallace. Of course one should tread carefully in these matters. But at the end of the day–the end of today, and probably resuming tomorrow–McCrory, Moore and the rest are appropriating segregationists’ rhetoric and methods while literally violating the Civil Rights Act.

If they have a sense of history, Republicans should think hard about what these resonances mean. It’s not too late to change course.


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