Republican Pat McCrory, former 14-year mayor of Charlotte and the likely victor in today’s North Carolina gubernatorial election, would like you to believe that he is a moderate, business-friendly leader who cares more about jobs and the economy than social wedge issues like gay marriage, undocumented immigration or voter identification laws.
We’re willing to admit that McCrory, in all earnestness, might believe he truly cares more about the state’s business climate than other issues. Perhaps he truly believes he has the best interest of the state and all of its people in mind. But his record, his recent positions and his association with those he’s chosen to bring on as campaign funders and supporters have more than mere fiscal and business reform in mind. By now, we hope it is apparent that Republican and Tea Party conservatism in North Carolina go hand-in-hand with right-wing, anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant and anti-minority extremism.
Don’t believe it? Look no further than Mecklenburg County’s own Thom Tillis, speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives. In 2010, Tillis and other Republicans, like McCrory this year, painted themselves as moderate, business-friendly Republicans. “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” was their motto. Even as Tillis took over the helm of the House leadership, he promised voters statewide that his focus would remain on the economy. The state’s media was also fooled, fawning and practically falling head over heels for Tillis’ iconic red wristband — “Think Jobs” emblazoned upon it.
Despite Tillis’ wristbanded guarantee, North Carolina Republicans, once in power, charted a course that would take North Carolina down the most radically-conservative road it ever traveled since the racist Redeemer takeover of the then-and-only-then laudable Republican government established in this state during Reconstruction.
Though history doesn’t leave Tar Heel Democrats completely innocent, it is true that North Carolina prospered and grew — economically and socially — under the careful and visionary leadership of later, more progressive Democratic governors like Terry Sanford and Jim Hunt and their Democratic legislatures. Despite his many other failings, Mike Easley continued that progressive legacy, expanding educational and other opportunities for North Carolina’s people.
All that, and more, changed once the hands of the GOP gripped the levers of power in the North Carolina General Assembly.
Education budgets were slashed, denying primary and secondary schools of the teachers needed to properly educate our young pupils. For those seeking higher education, cuts to the University of North Carolina System’s budget resulted in increased tuition and larger class sizes. The state’s pre-Kindergarten budgets were also drastically cut, leading to two separate court rulings upholding the legislature’s constitutional duty to provide for public education.Voter identification laws were proposed and passed, though, ultimately and thankfully, vetoed by Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue. The state’s landmark Racial Justice Act, an effort to correct decades of racial bias in the state’s court systems and jury selection, was gutted — blind Lady Justice be damned. Laws discriminating against hardworking undocumented immigrant families and their guiltless children were proposed. An unnecessary, hostile, divisive and distracting state constitutional amendment denying equal human and civil rights to LGBT Tar Heels was passed.
And, now, at the end of two years of misdirected Republican governance, North Carolina’s economy remains in turmoil. What happened to the focus on the economy? What about Republicans’ promises? Where did that wristbanded guarantee go? So much for “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.”
Tar Heel Republicans, drunk with power and blind to their own moral and constitutional obligations, have created a weaker, more divided North Carolina. They have harmed — though, we hope, not irrevocably — educational achievement and progress for our state’s young people. They’ve made anti-gay, racist and anti-immigrant hate cornerstones of our state’s new public policy.
Many North Carolinians, particularly those Charlotteans who remember a kindler, gentler Pat McCrory, are expected to cast their vote for him today. He’s consistently held a lead over his current Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton. All bets are placed — North Carolina will have its first Republican governor in 20 years.
It will come with a cost. At some point or another, McCrory’s funders and supporters will seek repayment. When that loan comes due, the extremist conservative agenda of the past two years will come back with force. When a Republican-controlled General Assembly passes laws detrimental to North Carolina’s children, families and minorities, a debt-laden McCrory will exercise no veto authority. North Carolina’s one hope — a gubernatorial check on out-of-control, Republican-led legislative frenzy — will no longer exist.
For nearly half a century or longer, North Carolina has prided itself as the sole progressive standard-bearer of the South. Under two years of Republican leadership, our collective legacy as the New South’s son of liberty has been weakened. A “Governor McCrory” will, no doubt, be the final nail in the coffin of North Carolina’s progressive history and future.
As you head out to the polls today, we implore you — on behalf of all North Carolina’s people — to cast your vote for Walter Dalton. Our state’s own motto, Esse quam videre — “To be, rather than to seem” — calls each of us to a higher understanding and moral code. We can reject the false veneer of McCrory. We can truly be the Great State of North Carolina. With Dalton, North Carolina can move forward. With Dalton, a balanced approach to governing can be achieved. With Dalton, we can hold back the tide of a regressive public policy hostile to what is right and what is just.