Politicking

North Carolina, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down

Crimson Tide: The Reddening of NC

800px-County-by-county_results_of_vote_on_North_Carolina_Amendment_1

No one in this country can really be proud of Obama (for reasons I’ve discussed elsewhere), but he was, without illusions, the better candidate in both the 2008 and 2012 elections. A Republican president pursuing the policies they promised would have been disastrous. And though North Carolina went blue in ’08—voting for Obama over McCain by a margin of about 14,000 votes—that changed in ’12. Romney stomped Obama with a nearly 100,000-vote lead. Rectify this change with any variable you like: the economy, campaign spending, and so on. But consider this: Obama got more votes in NC in 2012 than he did in ’08. So what gives? Given the success Republicans have had in-state, it seems the closeted super-conservative Carolinians have finally come out.

Take for example Wake County Public Schools, which had a national reputation for an impressive integration policy whereby students were shuttled from low-level income areas to the district’s better facilities, readily providing free or reduced-priced breakfasts and lunches to students whose families couldn’t afford it. This changed in 2010 when the Republican-dominated Wake County School Board voted 5-4 in favor of redistricting in order to cut operation costs. Unsurprisingly, the result of redistricting would have effectively segregated the schools. Even more unsurprisingly, the new superintendent of the Wake County Public School System was Tony Tata, former brigadier general in the US Army who served for twenty-eight years.

Tata was an obvious choice among Republicans and the Republican-dominated school board. Having been in the military for so long, he knew the chief value instilled in its members: Obedience. Those who can’t follow orders or attempt to foster creativity are systematically filtered out. And the Republicans behind Tata weren’t your ordinary run-of-the-mill Red-blooded ‘Pubs. Across the nation, the Tea Party signed on, pledging their opposition to what they called ‘social engineering,’ which sounds like a counter to criticisms they face for believing in and actively attempting to administer social Darwinism; contrary to their beliefs the downtrodden are often pushed there by legislation levied against them. ‘This is Raleigh in 2010, not Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s,’ Republican school board member John TeDesco said. ‘My life is integrated.’ I’m sure platitudes like this work for scoring political points within your own team, but they also completely ignore the reality of poverty in the region that’s lasted for decades and call for abolition of one of the few programs left attempting to alleviate the situation.

But stopping nationally-renowned progressive programs wasn’t enough; they needed to block things they’d already blocked. Same-sex marriage was already outlawed in North Carolina, yet Republicans felt it necessary—because of their Christian duty or some shit—to reinforce that only men and women were to be married, and only one man and one woman, lest those in polyamorous relationships start getting ideas. Furthermore, it nullified all civil unions—even those between straight couples. As a result of the amendment, you’re either married or you’re not, no wiggle room for civil unions or domestic partnerships. Why citizens were called to vote on legislation that only further invalidated what hardly existed struck me as beyond bizarre. Had citizens voted against the amendment, it wouldn’t have opened up gay marriage as an option. I wound up voting for two reasons: I was opposed to the authoritarianism of the bill, which—in the long, rich tradition of Republican-sponsored legislation—limited the freedom of individuals. And I was opposed to letting yet another hurdle be placed in the way of same-sex marriage. It was sad enough that it was passed by the state House and Senate, and sadder still when the public voted for it by a margin of half a million votes. Just look at the map above. That’s a whole lot of red. Carolinians made it that much more difficult to take steps forward and instead led us back to the cave.

Recent developments aren’t all that promising. Two Republican House members proposed a resolution to make Christianity the official state religion. They argue that the federal government can’t impose an official religion, but that there’s nothing in the Constitution forbidding states from acting as individual entities in this regard despite several Supreme Court rulings to the contrary. These guys have been opening congressional sessions with prayers, an activity they’ve been asked to stop a number of times, and so they’ve proceeded with this resolution as if to rub it in the face of their opponents, seriously implicating that they’re prepared to have Jesus sponsor NC. Crying infringements on their freedom, they scorn their opponents by claiming nay-sayers are abridging liberty. There is no irony in their argument, only a brilliant display of Orwellian doublethink.

Another bill just introduced to the state Senate by Bill Cook penalizes parents whose children register to vote at different addresses if they are claimed as a dependent. It is largely targeted at curbing the college student vote. Students going to university in-state won’t be able to vote in the communities in which they live and will stop large numbers from voting. If a student is from the Outer Banks and goes to school in Charlotte, is he really going to go all the way home to vote for the President? Republicans hope not. The reason for this bill has something or other to do with ‘saving money by avoiding early voting,’ accompanied by some impressively large figures, though of course there’s no explanation as to how the bill does anything to save individual counties the costs associated with early voting. More clearly, a supporter for the bill cited a case where students in Buncombe County altered the results of a county commissioner seat. It’s a problem these students were exercising a semblance of democracy, because they voted Democratic and that’s obviously the wrong choice.

That’s how Governor Pat McCrory might word his attempted avoidance of Obama’s health care plan by privatizing Medicaid. Since NC went red in ’12, clearly the citizens don’t want what Obama’s offering, and thus the government retains the right to hand over health coverage of 1.5 million North Carolinians to private, unaccountable corporations. NC made a choice, he might contend, and that choice is to dwell in the deep hypocrisy of Red Republicanism, a tangled web of misinformation that runs far deeper than the hypocrisy of Democrats.

The lesson NC Republicans are trying to teach the rest of us—who are obstinate, liberal kooks who just clearly won’t listen—is that these are matters of choice. And choice is an American ideal. It’s freedom with a capital F. People choose to be poor. People choose to be gay. If you want to get married, stop being gay about it; just be straight. And students from poor homes should have to fester in dilapidated facilities with those of their kind because their parents made poor decisions, and it will teach students not to be poor. How can it be any simpler? Don’t like living in shitty apartments and being shuttled off everyday to schools where the monkey bars are riddled with rust? Then stop being poor. You want to vote for your desired candidate where you live even if it’s hundreds of miles from where your parents live? Then stop going to university. These are choices we’re free to make, but as Red-blooders would have us know, be sure as hell you don’t make the wrong choice. But since they don’t trust us from not making the right choice, they’ll do all in their power to make it extremely difficult to make the wrong choice.

Republicans: The party of small government, freedom, and America. The party of a big Fuck You.

Notes:

‘North Carolina has power to establish official religion, resolution says,’ Andrew Dunn, Charlotte Observer 3 April 2013.

‘Senate bill seeks to curb college vote,’ Laura Leslie, WRAL 3 April 2013.

‘Republican school board in N.C. backed by tea party abolishes integration policy,’ Stephanie McCrummen, Washington Post 12 Jan. 2011.

‘McCrory plan would open state’s Medicaid business to private companies,’ Lynn Bonne, News & Observer 4 April 2013.

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