One more time: Gov. Pat McCrory needs to stand up to the Republican Jones Street Gang that keeps stealing his bicycle and putting gum in his hair. When elected, McCrory was seen by some Democrats as a Republican who could govern with an even hand and work with Democrats and Republicans alike to make the best decisions for North Carolina. He’d campaigned in 2008 against Beverly Perdue as an enemy of what he saw as a corrupt political status quo where the power brokers in the General Assembly listened to no one and ruled with arrogance aimed at keeping them in power.
He lost, but brought some of those themes back in 2012, successfully.
But now, right now, McCrory, former Charlotte mayor, is at a watershed in terms of his success or failure as a governor. His re-election platform is wobbly at best when it comes to accomplishments. His supposed allies in the Republican run General Assembly have treated him like a minor annoyance.
And most preposterous of all, they’ve let him stand out front on HB2 and take a national pounding for the mistake they made — although, yes, he signed it and defended it.
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The bill is pegged to transgenders in bathrooms but includes a limit on minimum wages in cities and a taking-away of the rights of localities to install their own anti-discrimination laws. Following its approval, McCrory attempted to “explain” things through videos, which didn’t work. And, he couldn’t resist the siren song of national television after HB2, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to decidedly uneven reviews. Meanwhile, the mischief-makers in the GOP leadership stubbornly decline to even consider a change in HB2, despite the governor’s meek hints that, well, maybe they ought to do something.
It’s time for the governor to take his wisdom not from political advisers who haven’t been getting the job done and go to an infallible source: “The Andy Griffith Show.” In one episode, Opie is bullied but doesn’t want to appear weak to his dad and Deputy Barney Fife. So he gives up his lunch money every day. Finally, Andy tells him a story from his own youth, about how he’d had to stand up to a bully once even though he was beaten up a little. Opie stands up; gets his clothes torn and a black eye. But he shall be bothered no longer.
McCrory, if there’s really a moderate, reasonable Mayor Pat in there, should acknowledge that he should have vetoed HB2, that he now realizes it was a huge mistake that has done the state great harm. He should travel around the state and make his case.
Legislative leaders, Senate president pro-tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, will continue to defend this preposterous legislation, and they’ll blast McCrory if he turns against them. They’ll seek revenge. They’ll reject his budget. They’ll come after him with everything they have.
In other words, they’ll treat him pretty much the same as they have for over three years. So what has the governor got to lose? Nothing. Those in power on Jones Street have thumbed their noses at him and will continue to do so whether he stands against HB2 or not.
The governor doesn’t even look comfortable as a tea party type conservative. He looks like he’s having about as much fun as governor as a cowboy with saddle sores trying to ride the meanest bull in the rodeo — to California.
Former Governor-for-Life Jim Hunt did not face the kind of legislature McCrory does, but his “definition” of what it takes to be governor stands. This is a paraphrase, but it’s pretty close to what Hunt has said many times: “A governor has to know what he wants to do. He has to know how to get there. He has to know how to get the people behind him. He has to put the people together in the legislature to get his program through. And then he has to know how to carry it out.”
If Pat McCrory wants to be that kind of governor, now is a good time to start. His clothes might get a little messy, and he might get a shiner. But he’ll have his first victory, no matter how HB2 turns out.
Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at firstname.lastname@example.org