Give credit to the Republican legislators who, with their first supermajority in Raleigh in over 100 years, are wasting no time passing their far-right agenda.
Whether it’s voter ID, abortion restrictions, loaded guns in restaurants or opposition to Medicaid expansion, nobody can stop them.
They won the General Assembly in 2010 and the governorship in 2012. With full control, they’re planning to shift the tax burden from the rich to the poor and transfer money from public education to private education, and all the Democrats can do is vote no.
Legislatively, the GOP has control, but that hasn’t stopped efforts to make the public aware of how the legislation they’re passing is changing North Carolina in ways that could haunt the state for decades to come.
The state chapter of the NAACP will hold its fifth “Mass Rally on Moral Monday” at the General Assembly on June 3. On Monday, May 20, 57 protesters were arrested, bringing the total arrest from all four rallies to 153.
The purpose of these rallies is to shine light on what’s going on inside the General Assembly, and to represent tens of thousands of voices of North Carolinians who are displeased with the way the GOP’s radical agenda is being rammed through.
“An increasingly modern and progressive state has been transformed almost overnight into a tea party lab experiment run amok,” said NAACP president William Barber. The leadership of the General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory ran on a platform of jobs and economic growth, but “are now governing directly against those goals,” Barber said.
A few other groups have also had an eagle’s eye on Raleigh, including Democracy North Carolina, NC Policy Watch, the NC Justice Center, Institute for Southern Studies.
“The state has taken a hard and destructive political turn backward and to the right,” wrote columnist Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch, an independent project of the NC Justice Center, which stands up for civil rights, health and education advocacy groups. “Ideas that would have been dismissed as literally crazy and hopelessly reactionary a few years ago — even by right of center, upper middle-income suburbanites — are now rushed through legislative committees like fast-food orders.”
For their part, Republican leaders have dismissed the protests as sour grapes. They remember well what it is like to be on the losing end of elections, year after year and decade after decade. Now that the tables are turned, they view the NAACP as the voice of an angry fringe group.
“I don’t feel their content is justified,” state Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, and House speaker pro tem, said of the protesters and their protests. “It is so vitriolic that it’s discounted by most people.”
However, the NAACP is not a fringe group, and its views represent many the views of many North Carolinians.
“North Carolina is a center-right state,” Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College in Salisbury, recently said. “It’s not a liberal bastion, so on both sides they have to be careful of going too far to one side or the other because that’s just not where the middle of North Carolina is.”
However, what is fringe are some of the proposals coming out of the legislature.
For instance, a Senate bill would invalidate local government pro-health smoking rules that go further than state law, which outlaws smoking in enclosed areas of restaurants, bars and other businesses. Also, there’s a bill requiring teachers to teach children that abortion causes later premature births.
Additionally, the GOP has championed legislation that creates a voter ID, bans same-day registration, and cuts the early voting period, all to reduce voter participation among minorities and the elderly.
Then there’s legislation allowing loaded and hidden handguns in bars and restaurants, on university campuses and city greenways — egregiously unsafe steps that have drawn opposition even from law enforcement officials.
Further, the GOP is planning an overhaul of the state’s tax code that NC Policy Watch calculates would mean a single mom with two children earning $20,000 a year will pay $1,000 more in state taxes over the next three years while a millionaire would pay $50,000 less. “It’s Robin Hood in reverse,” NC Policy Watch said.
Democrats have shown their opposition to these measures by voting against them. However, they haven’t produced much of a vocal popular front that is critical of the GOP agenda. So that’s where the NAACP has stepped up.
It remains to be seen whether the NAACP’s civil disobedience campaign will produce better laws. However, it beats the alternative of simply allowing GOP lawmakers to trample unfettered across North Carolina’s image as a progressive state.