Perhaps it was inevitable. The same “leaders” who crafted a disastrous bill, HB2, that has cost North Carolina thousands of jobs and millions of dollars came to Raleigh Wednesday talking about repeal, about how they’d undo HB2 if the Charlotte City Council rescinded the ordinance granting protections against discrimination to those in the LGBT community. (The specific issue was allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of the gender with which they identify, something they’d been doing forever.)
The Charlotte Council did that, with some last-minute tweaking, although it really wasn’t necessary considering that HB2 nullified the ordinance anyway. But Republican leaders must never have intended to keep their end of the bargain, because after a day of angry debate, closed door meetings and ridiculous partisan rhetoric in which GOP leaders blamed Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper for the breakdown, they rejected a repeal of HB2. So North Carolina is just as bad off as it was before the latest embarrassment, and maybe worse.
For now the divide is even greater, the national embarrassment is magnified, and some bitter resentments of Charlotte — and all urban areas, really — have come to the surface.
Consider the scary nonsense from Republican Sen. Buck Newton of Wilson, who referred to the “lunatic left of the city of Charlotte” and said, “I have no faith in the city of Charlotte, no faith that anybody on the other side at this point ... will act honorably and in good faith to find a way forward.”
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This came in the midst of Republicans fighting among themselves and insulting the intelligence of the people of North Carolina by trying to claim the Wednesday fiasco was the fault of Cooper, who brokered the deal. Sen. Phil Berger, president pro-tem of his unruly majority, tossed in a little something extra with the repeal proposal to punish what he said was the city council’s failure to fully repeal the ordinance, at least until it had another meeting at which it did fully repeal it. The something extra was a months-long ban on city ordinances like the one Charlotte passed. It was a petty maneuver just to slap the cities around a little for sport and ultimately did in the deal.
So Republicans who never wanted to repeal HB2 —they could care less about the damage it’s done to the state’s image and its economy — rallied against repeal, and Democrats fought them over the ban (an infringement on the rights of local government, by the way) and after a long day, North Carolina was back where it started.
Only the urban-rural divide was fully exposed. That tension has been increasing in the last few years, and with Berger, from Eden, and House Speaker Tim Moore, from Kings Mountain, in charge it has gotten worse, when their duty ought to be to bring the state together. Instead, they market the urban-rural differences and appeal to petty resentments to solidify their own power.
And in the meantime, North Carolina will continue to lose conferences, concerts, sporting events (NCAA and ACC, along with the NBA All-Star Game) and thousands more jobs from companies who have no intention of expanding operations or establishing new ones in a state that is perceived to be endorsing discrimination.
Wednesday was nothing less than a disgrace, and the constituents of these angry Republicans ought themselves to be angry. For this lack of duty, this failure, may cost those constituents and their children and grandchildren needed jobs, and North Carolina will be put on the shelf by business recruiters and businesses themselves as other states scramble to advertise themselves as “not North Carolina.”