Originally published on April 1, 2013.
Often, when people talk about Big Government, we think of George Orwell’s Big Brother: controlling, manipulative and sinister. In North Carolina, though, Big Brother is more like Biff Tannen, the bully from Back to the Future: dumb and mean with a chip on his shoulder.
The Republicans, who sold themselves as the party of small government, are using heavy and ham-handed measures to exert control over local governments and insert themselves into our personal lives. They’ve targeted our most vulnerable citizens with punitive bills like drug-testing for public assistance, issuing special ID cards to young undocumented immigrants, forcing victims of domestic abuse to stay married to their abusers for a longer period and limiting access to voting with restrictions that will affect primarily the poor and elderly. That’s the mean part.
The dumb is most obvious in their recent attacks on cities. Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Hendersonville) summarized the legislature’s resentment by whining, “Cities are getting too big and too powerful.” Urban growth is a function, largely, of the free market, but more powerful than who? The Republicans in the legislature, of course. To show cities who’s boss, they are overriding local ordinances, stealing municipal assets and redrawing districts for local offices. So much for limited government.
No matter how hard they try, Republicans can’t stop the urbanization of North Carolina, but they can slow our growth and economic development. Our urban centers are consistently listed as among the best places to live in the country because of the amenities they have to offer, including an educated workforce, a top-notch university system, solid public schools, low commute times and high quality, accessible entertainment like professional sports and a vibrant arts scene. The whole state has benefited from our maturing cities and efforts to keep them from growing will mean fewer jobs and less revenue.
With their new found power, Republicans are beating up on the people least able to defend themselves and exacting revenge for perceived slights from “arrogant” cities. Like all bullies, they’re reactionaries with little thought about long-term consequences. And like Biff Tannen, they may soon find themselves covered in a truckload of shit.