“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
Every time there’s a contentious political issue, we tend to demonize our opponents – and we also tend to lump them together.
House Bill 2, for instance. They say we’re fomenting radical upheaval! We say they’re all ignorant bigots! And sadly, in all the shouting we lose sight of the fact that there are a lot of distinctions among the two sides as well.
Take HB2’s supporters. True, there are bigots, who only support HB2 because it makes life harder for LGBT people – but the bigots are not to be confused with good people who are still learning. Or those who genuinely worry about non-transgender men abusing a trans-friendly policy. Or those who say gender distinctions help protect privacy in bathrooms and changing rooms. Or libertarians, who at least support letting private businesses set their own policies. Or conservatives in the literal sense, who just aren’t thrilled about having to rethink everything that assumes a strict male/female divide – even if they concede that the assumption is wrong.
All those subtle distinctions are important.
But it’s not just why people support HB2 that matters – there’s also the question of degree.
On the one hand, sure, you have your die-hards: people who love House Bill 2, show up at all the rallies, believe it’s the only thing standing between us and total upheaval.
But then there are the moderates, and there’s a lot more of them than you think. The moderates aren’t happy with HB2. They think it’s poorly written. They think it’s way too broad. They’re embarrassed by the bigots. They know the “public safety” concerns are overblown. They hate what it’s done to our state’s reputation. They hate what it’s doing to our economy. And they think there are more important issues we ought to be addressing. Maybe they still support parts of the bill, maybe they think it’s better than nothing, maybe they’re worried about party unity, maybe they just don’t want to make waves – but they’re clearly not comfortable with it. And as the two sides get more entrenched (and more extreme), the moderates are caught in the middle.
So if you’re a moderate, and you get pressed to take a stance on HB2, you have a hard choice:
What do you do?
And that’s a huge question. How you act is even more important than how you think. Two moderates could share the exact same opinion about HB2 – but if they act in different ways, they’ll end up in very, very, very different places.
Case in point, submitted for your approval:
Margaret Spellings and Pat McCrory.
Both of them Republicans, both very public figures, both holding major positions of power in state government – and both of them highly ambivalent about House Bill 2.
McCrory, ambivalent? Actually yes, and no doubt about it. Pat McCrory refused to call the GA into special session precisely because he was afraid they’d do something nuts. In his signing statement, he couldn’t even get through two paragraphs before hinting the GA went too far. Even now, he rarely attempts to defend Parts 2 and 3 of the bill, the non-bathroom stuff; when asked about them, he steers the conversation back to Part 1. His April 12 executive order begged the GA to walk back Part 3 – and made it clear that his office would have no part of workplace discrimination against LGBT people, even if HB2 made it legal. And at no point has McCrory ever bought into the “public safety” craze: he’s consistently been a “privacy” guy, and he’s repeatedly rejected the notion that there’s any danger of people being assaulted in bathrooms. Pat McCrory supports Part 1 of HB2, he thinks Charlotte’s ordinance went too far, he’s willing to swallow Parts 2 and 3 to get the provision he wants – and he’s fully aware the NCGA would have just overridden him if he’d taken a stand and tried to veto. But he’s never been happy with HB2, not for a second.
And in that, Pat McCrory is not far off from Margaret Spellings. Spellings has never been comfortable with LGBT issues, she has a history of saying the wrong thing, and in the case of HB2 she’s clearly not interested in picking a public fight with the General Assembly. Nor should we expect her to be. She’s a very prominent Republican in North Carolina, so it would be front-page news if she did pick a fight; she needs to maintain friendly relations with the NCGA because they pay UNC’s bills; and she doesn’t believe she has the authority to defy a government directive in the first place. So it’s no surprise she hasn’t exactly been getting herself arrested at Moral Mondays. But we also know that she’s not a fan of HB2. She said so herself, and unlike McCrory she went after the “bathroom” stuff directly:
“Were it up to me, I would not recommend enactment…I think it sends a chill through these institutions for staff, faculty and student recruitment…We don’t intend to enforce anything.”
When HB2 passed, Pat McCrory and Margaret Spellings found themselves in the same boat. They both had qualms about the bill. They both believed it went too far. But they’re also ambivalent on LGBT matters, this issue was never their top priority, and they both have strong incentives to avoid challenging the all-powerful NCGA. They had their differences – McCrory supported the “bathroom” stuff in Part 1, Spellings apparently opposed it – but for all practical purposes, Pat McCrory and Margaret Spellings were caught in exactly the same position: moderates, forced to take a public stand on a volatile issue.
What do you do?
Pat McCrory didn’t have to make the choices he made. He could have vetoed the bill, forced an override, dumped it all on the NCGA. He could have quietly signed the bill and said no more about it. He could have issued a signing statement calling for amendments, or at least more dialogue. He didn’t have to issue statement after statement defending HB2. When the boycotts came, he could have simply called for cooler heads to prevail. When the lawsuits came, he didn’t have to say anything at all.
Margaret Spellings didn’t have to make the choices she made. The night HB2 passed, she could have issued a statement thanking the NCGA for establishing a clear statewide policy. She could have said UNC cared about “protecting students’ safety” or “protecting students’ privacy.” When the Obama administration stepped in, it could just as easily have been Spellings on TV denouncing “federal overreach.” It could just as easily have been UNC suing the Justice Department – Margaret Spellings leading the charge.
Any of those choices would have made perfect sense.
It could have been so different.
But those weren’t the choices they made. Pat McCrory could have quietly backed away, but instead he took it upon himself to be HB2’s public face. Margaret Spellings could have put on a smile and gotten on board, but instead she went out of her way to be as reluctant as possible. Pat McCrory accused HB2’s opponents of being uninformed and hypocritical; Margaret Spellings told reporters UNC is a “welcoming and safe space for all.” Pat McCrory sued the U.S. government; Margaret Spellings implied the U.S. government was probably right.
True, Spellings has still taken some heat for not opposing HB2 more strongly.
But let’s just say there are no delis in Charlotte currently serving a sandwich called “Burn In Hell Margaret Spellings.” Pat McCrory, not so much.
So whenever we find ourselves arguing about HB2, let’s pause for a second and take a moment for the moderates – forced to choose between cruddy options, on an issue they wanted no part of. Be frustrated with Spellings’ tepid reaction, but recognize how much she has been pushing back. Criticize McCrory, but remember he wasn’t the architect of HB2 – he’s just a guy who got a bad situation dumped in his lap and made one fateful choice that’s been snowballing ever since.
Kurt Vonnegut said, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” McCrory and Spellings started in the same place – but Pat McCrory is the face of House Bill 2, and Margaret Spellings is not. It could have been so different, so easily.
Remember the moderates. It’s hard out there these days.http://chapelboro.com/featured/a-tale-of-two-moderates-mccrory-spellings-and-hb2
I want to talk about the “soft bigotry of low expectations.”
We’ve heard that phrase, right? Michael Gerson is the one who coined it, back in 2000 when he was a speechwriter for George W. Bush. Back then, it was an argument about race and education: we’re hurting African-American students by failing to hold them to a high standard, rewarding them for doing the bare minimum. Low expectations means students have no incentive to strive or work hard or be ambitious – so the achievement gap will never close, families will be stuck in poverty, and it’ll be on us for not having been more demanding.
That was the original argument, and it resonated well – especially with Republicans, who pride themselves on being the party of personal responsibility.
But here’s the thing, y’all:
Today, the “soft bigotry of low expectations” is still with us – only it’s not against African-Americans.
It’s against Republicans.
Today, Donald Trump and Paul Ryan met to work out an “agreement” to re-unify the GOP. Now, Donald Trump is a pathological liar, he says he wants to ban all Muslims from entering the country, he’s stirred up hatred of immigrants, he’s threatened to prosecute journalists who criticize him, and he’s actively encouraged his followers to beat up anyone who disagrees. Any one of those things ought to be enough to disqualify him from being president – if we hold our candidates up to high standards. Instead, GOP leaders are willing to let all that slide. Ryan will settle for some tiny concession, they’ll come out saying they’ve had great talks and reached an understanding, and they’ll shake hands and smile and move on. (Even as I’m writing this, Ryan and Trump just released a statement to exactly that effect.)
Meanwhile, Trump is creating a new controversy by refusing to release his tax returns. “There’s nothing to learn from them,” he says. Trump’s opponents say he’s lying about his finances, he’s not really worth ten billion dollars, he’s involved in shady dealings. But there’s no proof without the tax returns, so Trump says it must be a non-issue.
That’s how low the bar is for Donald Trump. We can’t prove he’s committed dozens of felonies; therefore he’s qualified to lead the free world. He has no respect for the Constitution, but that’s okay because he gives the GOP a slightly better chance of winning in November.
The soft bigotry of low expectations.
And it’s not just Trump. In North Carolina, we’re all about to go to court over the “bathroom” section of House Bill 2. What, exactly, are Republicans arguing? They’re arguing that federal law bans discrimination on the basis of sex, but it doesn’t overtly ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity, so a law that discriminates on that basis is technically acceptable.
Mind you, this is not the GOP’s fallback position – this is their position. Pat McCrory is making this argument loudly and proudly. “House Bill 2 is technically not directly against the law, so therefore it must be okay.” Forget whether it actually protects public safety. (McCrory hasn’t even tried to make that argument for weeks, in case you haven’t noticed.) As long as it manages to skate riiight up to the line of breaking federal law without actually technically crossing it, House Bill 2 must be perfectly fine.
The soft bigotry of low expectations.
And it’s not even just House Bill 2. This year alone, we’ve had legal fights over Congressional district lines, state legislative district lines, voter ID, teacher tenure, and judicial elections. Sooner or later, “magistrate recusal” is heading to the courts as well. And in every single one of those cases, it’s the same argument from the GOP: “Well, technically it’s not quite a violation of federal law, so therefore it must be okay.”
You know what? That’s not good enough.
It’s time we raised the bar.
Rather than letting the NCGA get away with passing bill after bill that’s arguably just slightly not quite unconstitutional, let’s demand our lawmakers pass bills that don’t create a legal crisis at all.
Rather than having to go to court and nitpick over whether our district lines constitute racial gerrymandering or just partisan gerrymandering, let’s just draw our district lines without any gerrymandering whatsoever.
Rather than making Pat McCrory go on TV and argue that “gender” discrimination technically isn’t the same thing as “sex” discrimination, let’s just have a law that doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender or sex.
Rather than making teachers sue the state to secure their contractually guaranteed benefits, let’s just fulfill the frigging contract.
Rather than jumping through legal hoops to argue that we’re not technically violating the Voting Rights Act when we impose new voting restrictions, let’s just…not impose new voting restrictions.
And rather than selling your soul and supporting a presidential candidate who stirs up hatred, panders to racists, trashes the Constitution, and generally acts like an eight-year-old playground bully, let’s actually demand our candidates meet a higher standard than the lowest possible bar. Ditch Trump if you need to. Vote for Gary Johnson instead. Democrats, if your candidate doesn’t hold up to high standards either, same story. Vote Johnson. Vote Stein. Write in somebody good.
Our political leaders ought to be better than this. Our candidates ought to be better than this. We ought to be better than this.
Otherwise, we’re subjecting ourselves, our state, and our country to the soft bigotry of low expectations. And we’re going to hate ourselves for it.
To hell with that. There’s too much hate already.
Postscript: Michael Gerson, the speechwriter who originally coined the phrase “soft bigotry of low expectations,” is now a writer for the Washington Post – and he’s remained consistent. He’s been a vocal opponent of Donald Trump’s for a long time now, most recently in this column.http://chapelboro.com/featured/donald-trump-hb2-and-the-soft-bigotry-of-low-expectations
For civil rights attorney and former mayor of Chapel Hill Mark Kleinschmidt, the letter sent to governor Pat McCrory by the U.S. Department of Justice makes a statement.
“It really just underscores how ignorant the lawmakers, policymakers are on what it means to be a transgender individual,” he said.
The department sent McCrory a letter Wednesday, saying House Bill 2 violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The letter says that HB2 is “facially discriminatory against transgender employees” by forcing them to use the bathroom that matches their biological sex rather than their gender identity.
“The ability to be able to access things like restrooms is a part of what the DOJ discusses as a necessary term, condition or privilege of employment,” Kleinschmidt said. “It’s just what comes along with having a job, presumably a place where you can use the restroom.”
Governor McCrory has until close of business of May 9, according to the letter, to alert the Department of Justice as to how the state will “remedy these violations” by confirming that the state “will not comply with or implement H.B. 2.”
Kleinschmidt said he assumes McCrory will respond by telling the department he thinks HB2 doesn’t break the law.
If this happens the DOJ’s next move would be to file a complaint in federal court. This complaint would be heard by a three-person panel of judges.
McCrory could also choose to say he will not be enforcing the law, avoiding any legal proceedings with the Department of Justice, but Kleinschmidt jokingly said the governor has a third option.
“They could just confess the whole thing is a symbolic political ploy to drum up the Republican base in order to maintain our veto-proof majority in our state legislature,” he said. “Which is the actual real reason this was passed.”
To hear Mark Kleinschmidt’s full interview with Aaron Keck, see below:http://chapelboro.com/featured/mark-kleinschmidt-talks-hb2-department-of-justice
North Carolina governor Pat McCrory offered details on the 2016-2017 state budget that he is proposing.
“My budget invests dollars where they matter most by spending on key priorities that have the biggest impact on North Carolinians and their families,” McCrory said.
The budget makes an investment in education, giving teachers across the state a five percent pay increase.
It also will establishes a scholarship program by investing $2 million to attract 300 new, highly qualified math and science teachers to earn degrees and teach math and science in the state’s public schools.
“Our top budget priority this session is faculty and staff pay, and we are pleased that the Governor is proposing to invest in recruiting and retaining top faculty and to recognize the contributions of University employees,” said UNC System president Margaret Spellings.
McCrory has also stated he is pushing to get all North Carolina classrooms connected to Wi-Fi by 2018.
Overall, spending will be capped at $22.3 billion dollars, which would be a 2.8 percent increase from this year’s budget.
According to the governor’s office, there are no tax or fee increases in the budget.
“These investments build on our commitment to strengthen education, enhance public safety, improve the health of our citizens, build new roads that connect our communities, all while reforming government to make it more accountable and efficient,” McCrory said.
A full version of the budget is scheduled to be released Wednesday, April 27.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/mccrory-announces-budget-plans
Governor Pat McCrory released a video message on Tuesday responding to criticism of House Bill 2 and Attorney General Roy Cooper’s decision not to defend the bill in court.
McCrory released the video amid protest against the bill and threats from national corporations to boycott the state.
McCrory said the bill is a matter of upholding an expectation of privacy and that opponents are speaking out for political gain.
“Unfortunately that has occurred when legislation was passed to protect men, women and children when they use a public restroom, shower or locker room. That is an expectation of privacy that must be honored and respected, instead, North Carolina has been the target of a vicious nationwide smear campaign,” said McCrory in the video.
Opponents of the bill say it rolls back protections for transgender individuals by forcing people to use the bathroom of the sex indicated on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity.
“This is not about demonizing one group of people, in fact, let’s put aside our differences, the political rhetoric and yes a lot of hypocrisy and work on solution that will make this bill better in the future,” said McCrory.
Bank of America has now joined the ranks of companies condemning the bill. The bank joins more than 80 companies whose CEO’s have signed an open letter to Pat McCrory, authored by the Human Rights Campaign, calling for the repeal of House Bill 2.
Other notable companies that have signed the letter include Apple, Google, Pfizer and Facebook, among many others. The NBA said the law could also impact the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, which is planned to be played in Charlotte.
Earlier this week, the governor of Georgia vetoed similar legislation after major companies like Disney and Dell, threaten to pull their businesses out of the state if the legislation passed.
A lawsuit was filed earlier this week by LGBT advocacy groups challenging the legislation.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Roy Cooper said he would not defend House Bill 2 in court. Cooper, a Democrat, is running for governor against McCrory.
Cooper said he will instead defend the Treasurer’s Office nondiscrimination policy, which Cooper said is violated by House Bill 2.
“In order to protect our nondiscrimination policy and employees, along with those of our client, the state treasurer’s office, part of our argument will be that House Bill 2 is unconstitutional,” said Cooper.
McCrory said the attorney general’s obligation was to defend the state.
“When you are the state’s lawyer, you are a lawyer first and a politician second, therefore, I want to encourage the attorney general to reconsider his flawed logic,” said McCrory.
The ACLU has asked that the law be temporarily blocked until the case is heard in court.http://chapelboro.com/featured/mccrory-defends-house-bill-2-as-businesses-line-up-against-it
In a time where we continually hear about divided politics and the polarization of America, a new poll from Public Policy Polling said there are a few issues North Carolinians can agree on.
“Redistricting has obviously been one of the biggest issues in the state so far this year,” said director Tom Jensen. “We found 59 percent of voters in the state want the law changed so district lines are drawn up in an nonpartisan fashion. Only nine percent of voters are opposed to doing that.”
The democrats surveyed supported independent redistricting 65 to six. Independents supported it 56 to 12 and republicans supported it 54 to 11.
“What’s most interesting is those republican numbers,” Jensen said. “Certainly if there was independent redistricting republicans would not have quite as lofty of a majority as they do in the congressional delegation and in the state legislature right now, but we find on that ‘small d’ democracy issue even republicans are in agreement.”
Jenson said North Carolinians are also in agreement on mandatory background checks for gun purchases, raising the minimum wage to 10 dollars an hour and the EPA clean power plan, but these agreements don’t always turn into action.
“Even when you have 17 republicans running, not a single one of them would say they supported increasing the minimum wage, even to $10 an hour,” he said. “We find the republican base has a very different view than republican politicians with 53 percent supporting at least ($10 dollars an hour).”
While these issues are more closely associated with democratic candidates, democratic challengers at the state level are having a hard time picking up votes.
Republican senator Richard Burr and governor Pat McCrory are both up for reelection in November.
“The interesting dynamic you have with both McCrory and Burr is that republican voters aren’t that in love with them,” Jensen said. “Burr has about a 50 percent approval rating with republicans. McCrory is in the 60s. But then when you ask would you vote for McCrory or Roy Cooper, Richard or the democrat, they get 80 to 85 percent of the vote.”
Jenson said McCrory has a -7 approval rating, but still leads expected challenger Roy Cooper by a few points. Burr has a -11 approval rating, but leads his expected challenger Deborah Ross by six points.
“There are a lot of republicans who don’t actually like them, but will still vote for them over a democrat,” Jensen said.
Governor Pat McCrory is inviting the public to four public hearings to get feedback on a monument at the State Capital to commemorate the contributions of African Americans in North Carolina.
“I can’t think of a more appropriate way to recognize the contributions of African Americans to North Carolina’s history than a monument at the State Capitol,” McCrory said.
The public hearings will be held at four different locations across the state.
“I encourage North Carolinians to actively participate in dialogue about key considerations and thematic elements for this important monument,” McCrory said.
For 25 years the state was under a moratorium on create more statues in the State Capital, but the moratorium was lifted to create this monument.
The issue of race on campus came to the forefront this summer, when the UNC Board of Trustees agreed to rename Saunders Hall to Carolina Hall.
North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory may have softened his tone about the purpose of higher education in the state since he set off a firestorm by mocking gender studies last year, but his message remains the same: UNC and other universities need to “hone in” on the “changing market environment.”
“The educational elite have taken over our education where we’re offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs.
“You want to take gender studies? That’s fine. Go to a private school and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that it that’s not going to get someone a job.”
Those comments, made during an interview with conservative radio host and Reagan-era education secretary Bill Bennett on Jan. 29, 2013 did not endear the newly elected governor to the UNC community.
McCrory’s recent remarks during a jobs tour in Greensboro also did not help soften relations. He joked to reporters that North Carolina needs more truck drivers and tech workers, and less political science majors, sociologists, psychologists, and especially, journalists.
So it wasn’t a surprise that the governor’s Oct. 12 keynote address at Memorial Hall for University Day was not exactly packed to the rafters; nor that his speech got what could be described as a polite response.
The tone of his remarks was softer, and he even seemed to back off a little.
“Our universities must continue to be an environment where our students can exercise their brains and be free to think, explore, solve problems, adapt, and innovate, regardless of their major,” said McCrory. “We must teach knowledge that is essential for a free person to actively participate in civic, professional, and family life.
“This is the definition of liberal arts: history, language, literature, religion, philosophy, the sciences, mathematics, business and civics.”
But McCrory stuck to his repeated message, both in his speech and during an interview that day with Carolina Connection.
“I think the big change that UNC and all universities are going to have to make in the future is they’re going to have to adapt more quickly to the changing market environment, and to the job skills gaps that industry is facing at this point in time.”
During his address at Memorial Hall, McCrory mentioned an Employer Needs Survey of 800 public and private employers, conducted this year by the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
Of the 45 percent that reported trouble hiring employees, 40 percent of them cited lack of experience, technical skills and educational credentials as a big reason.
The governor did not mention that one in three employers reported an insufficient number of applicants; and that one in four reported unwillingness by job candidates to take the wages offered as a factor.
He also did not mention that a lack of “soft skills,” such as communication, enthusiasm, and interpersonal talents was reported as a factor by one in four employers; and that one in six employers said that criminal records prevented hiring. One in 10 applicants reportedly didn’t pass a drug screening.
The Associated Press reported in September 2013 that $20 million in state budget cuts across 58 community college campuses resulted in “fewer instructors, larger classes and reduced services for students seeking skills to build careers.”
The Commerce Department survey that McCrory cited also found that the North Carolina industry with the most hiring difficulty was educational services, at 62.5 percent.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/mccrory-softens-tone-higher-education-sticks-message
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Friend
UNC System President Tom Ross praised the North Carolina General Assembly for it’s attention to higher education with the signing of the 2014-15 budget, signed into law Thursday morning by Governor Pat McCrory. The reception wasn’t as rosy on the Pre-K-through-12 level.
President Ross released a statement shortly after the passage, reading, in part: “There is a lot to appreciate in this budget, including the first new investment by the General Assembly for parts of our strategic directions initiative and the support of the New Teacher Support Program.”
“We continue to focus on our responsibility to produce a well-equipped talent force for our businesses and our communities,” President Ross said. “Highly talented faculty and staff are critical to these efforts. As other states continue to reinvest in higher education, our ability to recruit and retain the best faculty and staff will only get more challenging. We look forward to working with the Governor and the General Assembly next session to address the issues that will hinder our State’s future competitiveness.”
The New Teacher Support Program’s goal is to cater to each young educators individual needs in order to make sure they are on the path to success.
Despite an average of seven-percent increase to teachers’ salaries in primary education, there are still concerns among educators.
Longevity pay, the bonus once awarded to teachers with more than ten years of experience is no longer guaranteed. Instead, the new plan caps teacher salaries at $50,000 for those with more than 25 years in the classroom and rolls longevity pay into the base salaries.
This has some long-term teachers estimating their raises at closer to 2-4 percent, while starting teachers will receive a seven-percent boost and those with half a decade of experience could see as much as an 18 percent increase.
Representative Graig Meyer of Orange and Durham counties told WCHL Wednesday, after the announcement of Budget Director Art Pope’s resignation, that he’s also concerned about future budget decisions because there is now an $800,000 to $1 billion deficit that will have to be accounted for during 2015-16 budget talks.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-government/unc-system-president-praises-gas-work-budget
A last report was released today by the UNC Campus Security Initiative which provided an in-depth review and recommendations for improving safety and security for all University of North Carolina campuses.
This analysis by Initiative demonstrates what the UNC campuses do well, what the law requires, and how the University can do to improve security measures amidst a time of uncertainty.
The UNC Campus Security Initiative has encountered 26 findings and 36 recommendations in order to aid in collaboration efforts and the sharing of resources, along with many other opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to work together to make a safer UNC.
The office of Governor Pat McCrory worked alongside the Initiative to reduce the dangers alcohol and substance abuse, and many of the UNC campuses will work on this further for their program, which is focused on treatment and prevention.
The crime rate on each of the UNC campuses is still significantly under the statewide average, but the Initiative says that they will continue to “build on existing efforts with better coordination, clearer policies, and the best resources available.”
To see the full UNC Campus Security Initiative report, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/unc-campus-security-releases-final-safety-report