The choice for North Carolina

by | Nov 3, 2016 | 2016 Elections, Features, NC Politics, NCGov | 6 comments

I didn’t vote for Governor McCrory but I rooted for him anyway. As North Carolina came out of recession, counties like mine came out slower than average, and one couldn’t help but root for the man in charge.

I knew he was a Republican, but we’re all in this together, and I hoped for the best, expecting the governor to represent the party of Tim Scott, Nikki Haley and John McCain. But that McCrory never made it out of Charlotte.

Torn between those embracing America’s changing demographics and those fighting every change, Pat McCrory chose the wrong side of a Republican civil war, and North Carolina paid the price.

We expected a moderate, and based on McCrory’s record as a mayor, we had every right to expect him to govern from the center-right, just like Governor Kasich in Ohio, which is another battleground state.

McCrory ran as an outsider who would clean up state government, and that’s why we elected him, not to overhaul a university system that’s worked for hundreds of years, but to preside over economic recovery and to preserve North Carolina’s image as the progressive leader of a New South.

Your guess is as good as mine what happened next. I never understood why McCrory never brought in Charlotte business leaders to serve in his administration, why he filled his cabinet with strangers and partisan hacks, whether he’d even met his chief-of-staff before he hired him, and why he gave the budget to Art Pope.

But we all know the rest.

I didn’t agree with his policies but I understood refusing to expand Medicaid for fear of having to pay Washington back, and cutting unemployment benefits and the Earned Income Tax Credit to save the state money during tough times.

I understood the reasoning, but I also understood that those sacrifices weren’t asked of North Carolina’s wealthy; just the poor and the middle-class.

The recession hit North Carolina hard, we were already transitioning from a manufacturing economy to one based in service, and the citizens of North Carolina needed each other during difficult times, but McCrory wanted every man for himself.

I don’t blame those bills as much on him, or the members of the General Assembly as I do the voters who stayed home in 2010, because they elected a conservative government, and we got one.

But we also elected Governor McCrory to stand up to the legislature, and in the end he never did. He allowed Thom Tillis and Phil Berger to dictate terms, and he signed their social agenda without opposition, because they agreed on tax cuts for the rich.

The Carolina Comeback never made it out of North Carolina’s cities, and in the end, McCrory’s economic vision never included rural North Carolina or the working-class.

For over a century North Carolina conquered the strains of the Gilded Age and the Great Depression by investing in public education; by trying to give every kid a head start. And when teachers were leaving North Carolina in search of better pay, McCrory waited until the end of his term to take notice, and he let us fall behind.

But in the end it was civil rights that will be McCrory’s legacy. North Carolina’s first Republicans fought and died for the rights of African-Americans, including the right to vote. McCrory knew that history. And with more power than any Republican in Raleigh since Reconstruction, the direction of his party was entirely up to him.

Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians don’t exercise their right to vote, most of them are poor, and as the leader of the party of Lincoln, McCrory should have sought to be their voice; instead he signed a bill making it harder to register and harder to vote.

As the former mayor of Charlotte, McCrory should have opposed the General Assembly’s power grabs and their attempts to overrule local ordinances, especially when it came to the rights of minorities. Given the chance to veto House Bill 2, he signed a document that was wrong not just because of discrimination or job loss. But for what it said about us; that we couldn’t trust each other to go to the right bathroom or that we had to protect our children from our friends.

If the governor were serious about preventing the sexual abuse of children, he would have invested in mental health treatment and targeted the opioid epidemic instead of LGBTs. But HB2 was never about children. It was about votes.

And it screwed up March Madness, which is what we used to do best. Most of us are over it. We’re tired of a governor who picks fights with the press, we’re tired of being famous for a protest movement and we’re tired of being the butt of late-night jokes.

We’re optimistic people in North Carolina, we’re inclusive, and we don’t belong in the news unless it’s for winning Final Fours. We used to lead the New South, we’re tired of falling back into the old one, and it’s time for a governor who will lead us again.

Roy Cooper doesn’t have all the answers and a governor Cooper would be limited by a Republican legislature, but he can also limit them. Roy Cooper understands that the economic challenges we face are too complex to be solved by tax-cuts alone, and his agenda rightly prioritizes small-business and rural North Carolina for a change.

But we need to return to normalcy and that’s what Roy Cooper represents.

He’ll govern from the middle, as a moderate progressive in the tradition of Terry Sanford and Jim Hunt, who welcomes new ideas, puts compromise before ideology and education before everything else. That’s the North Carolina we used to know and the North Carolina we can show the world again on November 8th.

Michael A. Cooper, Jr. is an attorney at the McElwee Firm in his hometown of North Wilkesboro. 



  1. Alex Jones

    Nikki Haley may have won positive publicity over the Flag, but she is in reality a deeply reactionary, anti-working class Deep South governor who does not deserve praise. Scott, likewise, is very conservative–a Tea Party hero, and for good reason. And let us not forget that McCain wanted Sarah Palin to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

    In other words, don’t give them credit based upon aesthetics and apparent temperament. These are not constructive figures.

  2. Gailya Paliga

    Great article explaining the massive disappointment many North Carolinians feel with McCrory. I agree with all this Republican lawyer said. McCrory could have been okay. He made terrible choices, one after the other. This article hits some big ones.

  3. SandraBabb

    Sandy Babb
    I agree with the original statement and all the comments. Thanks for your intelligent commentary!!

  4. Norma Munn

    Charlotte’s political system does not require a powerful, serious, thoughtful, smart mayor. It can function without those qualities in its mayor. The City Manager and staff at the agencies prepare and submit the budget, which is the cornerstone of managing and directing the future of any city. The City Council members amend, debate and pass it. The Mayor presides over the Council and has some veto powers, but overall it is simply not a system that requires great political astuteness. The Mayor does not have to push for and demonstrate ownership of programs and policies to remain Mayor. Yes, the job is somewhat flexible and stronger mayors can and I think, have, used the position to accomplish a great deal more. McCrory did not. One can debate whether this is good for Charlotte at this stage, but it clearly did not prepare McCrory for a demanding job as governor of this state. Likability is easy when one really does not have to navigate week after week hard political choices. Mediocrity is easily acceptable, which is what McCrory demonstrates regularly as governor.

  5. Kick Butt

    I know McCrory from Charlotte. He is not bright; he held a low-level job at Duke (Power) Energy; he does not understand public policy; he was overwhelmed when he arrived in Raleigh; he had no program ready for introduction in the legislature; he has no backbone; and he is unwilling to stand up and take a stance that is independent of the legislature. He was literally a duck out of water without even knowing how to quack. Nor has he learned anything since then except to kowtow to the General Assembly.

    I suggest that we defeat him and send him for retirement some “quackers” to feed the ducks in Pullen Park.

  6. Walt de Vries, Ph.D.

    Precise and to the point. Well thought-out and researched. Most of us who knew McCrory when he was Mayor still cannot believe what happened to him when elected Governor. It was just inexplicable in a campaign season full of puzzles and dilemmas. Trust Cooper will do much better.

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