“You started it.”
“No, you started it.”
“No, you did.”
Sound like a fourth-grade playground quarrel?
Unfortunately, it also sounds like our state’s elected leaders over House Bill 2 and the recent federal appeals court ruling on the state’s voter ID legislation.
In recent weeks, proponents and opponents of HB2 have gone back and forth on social media, in news releases and in public statements about who started the controversy. And that same finger-pointing has begun on voting laws.
In the end, does it really matter who started the fights?
It should not. Both HB2 and the election law case have put North Carolina on the map and in the national and international spotlights in ways that no one should want.
We should be much more interested in who will end them than who started them.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the Charlotte City Council started the HB2 controversy with the passage of a nondiscrimination ordinance allowing transgender individuals to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity.
Therefore, all of the negative consequences of House Bill 2 – the foregone business expansions, the moving of the NBA All-Star Game from Charlotte and concert cancellations, among others – are the fault of Charlotte’s elected leaders for passing the ordinance in the first place.
If that is true, then would not it also follow that the N.C. General Assembly started the voting law controversy – and all of the negative publicity that is coming with it – by passing the omnibus election law back in 2013?
In case you missed it, a federal appeals court recently ruled that the voting law was passed with discriminatory intent to limit the voting rights of African-Americans in North Carolina.
Put simply, the court ruled that requiring photo identification, decreasing the number of early voting days, ending same-day voter registration and disallowing pre-registration of young voters were enacted to make it more difficult for African-American voters to cast ballots.
The state’s Republican leaders plan to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a news release reacting to the ruling, Gov. Pat McCrory, referring to the appeals court, said that “three Democratic judges are undermining the integrity of our elections also while maligning our state.”
In other words, GOP leaders want you to think that it is Charlotte’s fault that all of the economic fallout is occurring as a result of its overreach in passing the nondiscrimination ordinance in the first place. At the same time, they want you to think that the federal courts are now to blame for “maligning our state” in a ruling that claims Republican legislators acted with discriminatory intent.
Sorry, but neither side can have it both ways.
Everyone agrees – or should – that the effects of Charlotte’s transgender ordinance and the 2013’s wide-ranging election law changes are painting a bad picture of North Carolina across the country and the world, regardless of which side you are on in either case.
Does it really matter who started the controversies?
What matters is that North Carolina is routinely getting dragged through the mud. What matters is that the black eyes probably will not heal anytime soon.
Leadership is not always about getting your way, especially when the path to victory involves inflicting damage on the state as a whole. What matters is that our elected leaders on both sides of the aisle and their supporters are incapable of compromising or reaching consensus on some of today’s most pressing issues.
And that does not bode well for tomorrow.
Patrick Gannon is the columnist for the Capitol Press Association. Reach him at [email protected]