Not Gone to Carolina in my mind

From the recently wounded Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the storied grounds of Donald Ross’ golf architectural masterpiece at Pinehurst, North Carolina is undoubtedly a special place.

And the people, oh the people. From the sister I love who made it her home, to my niece who proudly attends the sinister University of North Carolina, I know there are good people there. The great James Taylor wrote “Carolina In My Mind” and still calls Chapel Hill home, so who am I to judge?

Well that’s what I do here.

Carolina has me worried. I worry for those from there, but also for all of us watching decorum and protocol being abandoned for partisanship and anger. The things going on in the statehouse in Raleigh just don’t match the rest of the things I know about that wonderful place.

The bitter and childish feud between the two parties started a long time ago. Of course exactly when it started depends on who is talking. For our purposes, I am going to point to January 5, 2013 as the beginning. That is when the former mayor of Charlotte, Republican Pat McCrory took over as Governor.

The 2012 election resulted in Republicans controlling the legislature and the governor’s office for the first time since 1870. Under the circumstances, a certain amount of partisan policy should be expected. That also is when errors in judgement are often made.

One policy decision that serves as an “error” is the 2011 voter identification law that was overturned by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals this July for targeting African American voters. Democrats started fighting this one in 2013. Then there is the infamous Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act passed in March. It is more commonly referred to as the “bathroom bill” and Hoosiers can appreciate it since it dethroned our own RFRA as the top ranked unforced legislative mistake in America. For that, North Carolina, we thank you.

With all that understood, it is the behavior of the supermajorities in the legislature this past week, and then approved by the outgoing Gov. McCrory that has crossed an important line. It took McCrory a month to concede defeat to their new Governor-elect Roy Cooper. Then the Republicans in power called a special session the following week to pass some quick and partisan laws to maim Cooper before he takes over. Those provisions include reducing control of the governor’s party on the election boards throughout the state; a sharp reduction in personnel control the governor has; and, a new senate confirmation process of gubernatorial cabinet appointees.

The moves provoked protests in the chamber’s galleries. There were arrests. There was business conducted in the “people’s house” outside of public view. All of which can only be described as partisan power grabbing.

I have read the national media accounts of the shameful week the state had. It’s a public relations nightmare. This is on the heels of the worst public relations year it has ever had.

This kind of stuff could just as easily happen in Indiana, and some would say it already has. Indiana supermajorities have made mistakes, with RFRA being our standard bearer. However, the attempt to neuter our Democrat Superintendent of Public Instruction, and then reorganization of the Board of Education is actually more in line with what is going on in Raleigh this week.

The difference is that our leadership paid attention to feedback from the public and learned from its mistakes in large part. Again, some would argue that as well.

What is different about what is happening in North Carolina this week is that it is disrespectful of the American way. And it is worrisome because it is an example of how our orderly transfers of power are becoming unnecessarily fragile these days.

It does not have to be this way. Not here. I am convinced America is better than this. Indiana is. And North Carolina should be.

I think of my old elementary school classmate, Jim Stout, who I am reconnected with through social media. He relocated from our hometown in Southwest Virginia to the “high country” in the Boone area. These days he loves his Smoky Mountain views and Appalachian State football tailgates. I worried about him during the fires that savagely rolled through the park and the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area on the Tennessee side of the line last month. I’m glad he is safe, that his Mountaineers won their bowl game last night, and that he’ll survive this nonsense in his state’s capitol.

James Taylor wrote a great song long ago about his Carolina home. More recently though, Raleigh’s own Ryan Adams wrote one too. Adams sings of it like this:

Oh my sweet Carolina
What compels me to go
Oh my sweet disposition
May you one day carry me home.

That “sweet disposition” is exactly how I see the people there. Please get back to that Carolina. The rest of us are counting on it.