Recent articles and columns in The N&O have described the impact of gerrymandering on North Carolina, which has become a very divided, partisan battleground where compromise for the common good is no longer possible and, with a weakened governor, we continue under a regime of one-party rule.
The recent vote in the state Senate which failed to repeal House Bill 2 is just the latest example of dysfunction.
I wondered just who the senators blocking repeal were and which counties they represent. I looked up the GOP “no” votes and created a map of the 40 counties represented by these elected officials. What jumped out at me was how well-aligned they are to N.C. tourism. Many are along the coast north of Wilmington and along the Blue Ridge north and east of Asheville.
My first thought was why not advocate a tourism boycott of these counties to apply real pressure on these senators. Because of gerrymandering, our votes mean less, so economic boycott may be the only effective way now to apply pressure to the political process for those who have been shut out.
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The NAACP has already called for a full boycott of North Carolina at the national level. However, that will punish everyone, even those counties that voted for repeal. Instead, and also thinking about in-state tourism, we could have a more targeted approach.
The GOP has been playing hard ball for the last four years and there is no sign whatsoever this will change. We must return balance to the state and nonviolent, economic boycott is likely the only option left.
I floated the idea to my Facebook, mostly liberal, echo chamber and was somewhat surprised at the response.
While people saw the logic of it, they worried about the impact it would have on those people who might suffer from further economic bad news. They wanted to continue trying to convince the legislature and the public to invest more in public education, expand civil liberties to all, embrace diversity, expand voter participation, expand Medicaid coverage and restore powers to the new Democratic governor.
I don’t see that the Moral Monday movement, for all the attention it has received, has had any concrete effect. I believe Rev. William Barber has realized this also. In politics, it is important to understand the game, and as we have seen, it is hardball.
I downloaded and analyzed N.C. Department of Commerce data for the top 25 companies in each of the 40 counties.
If you exclude education, health services, and public administration, tourism accounts for about 18 percent of the companies in these counties and includes companies like Tweetsie Railroad and the Chetola Resort in Watauga County, fast food franchises, assorted YMCAs and golf clubs, The Eseeola Lodge in Avery County, the Coral Bay Club in Carteret County, or the Sanderling Resort and Spa in Dare County.
Presumably larger companies are the target for the NAACP statewide boycott. They include companies like Food Lion, headquartered in Rowan County, Bernhardt Furniture in Caldwell County, American & Efird in Gaston County, Unifi Manufacturing in Yadkin County and Pike Electric in Surry County.
If the left follows Barber’s lead and focuses on fighting fire with fire by an in-state boycott, it will surely fan the flames of divisiveness. It will be the left “seeing and calling” the GOP. Such brinkmanship is regrettable, but it is the order of the day.
Witness the willingness of the GOP to shut down the federal government to get its way. Rather than seeking to “win” some sort of pyrrhic victory, the true objective should be to forever remove gerrymandering and restore natural balance to our system.
We will never all agree, but a truly representative democracy is a much better goal then one-party rule and playing hardball with people’s lives and livelihoods.
Peter van Dorsten lives in Raleigh.