North Carolina’s progress between 1960 and 2010 was often uneven, imperfect and insufficient, but it was nevertheless impressive. The state went from having some of the lowest wages and worst educational attainment in the country to being what was widely regarded as a leader in the South. Not so anymore. A decade of Republican legislative rule has left the state less educated, more polluted and more unjust. Three months out from the first election to take place in a redistricting year since the fateful Tea Party wave, Tar Heels cannot afford to give Republicans power for another decade.
Here are three reasons why:
- Education Announcing her veto of the first Republican budget, former Governor Bev Perdue warned that it would do “generational” damage to public education. She was right. Deep cuts to per-pupil spending and classroom supplies first enacted in 2011 have stayed in place ever since. Years after the end of the Great Recession, North Carolina’s traditional public schools have largely been hollowed out, replaced by a flood of unregulated charters and voucher-funded (often religious, totally unaccountable) private schools that are draining resources from the district schools and effecting resegretaion. It is no coincidence that test scores are falling and the achievement gap has begun to expand after a period of modest reduction. GOP legislative leaders remain fundamentally hostile to what many of them call “government schools” and it is beyond a doubt that they will continue to neglect their funding and undermine them with right-wing “school choice” policies. We have essentially sacrificed a generation to anti-public school ideology. Another decade of GOP rule would impose that same fate on Generation Alpha.
- Climate North Carolina Republican legislative leaders are so insistent in their climate denial that they have literally become fodder for parody. Early in their reign, they passed a law attempting to prohibit the seas from rising. And their environmental policies have been guided by this know-nothing view ever since. Seemingly every year sees another attack on renewable energy, including a moratorium on new wind farms that they blackmailed Governor Cooper into approving, and mass repeal of conservation rules. They have cut the budgets of the Department of Environmental Quality and the Wildlife Commission by nearly 50%. Perhaps they will have an epiphany about the world-historical threat of climate change. This is unlikely.
- Democracy National observers have become so accustomed to North Carolina Republicans’ authoritarian tactics that journalist Kevin Drum remarked “at least it was just North Carolina.” Legislative bosses are clearly hellbent on turning North Carolina into a severely constrained one-party state. When federal courts struck down their “Monster Voting Law” in a scorching decision, they followed this defeat with a voter-ID constitutional amendment. Nor have they lost their taste for extreme gerrymandering. Putting them in charge of the levers of government for another decade would lead to more democratic erosion in a state whose history on voting rights already gives it a lot to answer for.
The damage North Carolina Republicans have inflicted on the general welfare of our state has already assured them a prominent place in the history books–and one that will not be laudatory. But there is absolutely no sign that they plan to moderate or modify their approach to government if they are given control of the legislature for the next ten years. That makes this election historically important.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.