For the last year, Donald Trump has hovered over America like a Mickey Mouse balloon swelling over the Macy’s parade. Earlier this week, as the air continued to come out of the Trump campaign, Governor Pat McCrory faced his challengers for a second and final debate. Anyone put off by Trump-ism should pay close attention to McCrory’s extremism in North Carolina. Although he plays nice and smiles for the camera, McCrory has signed, executed and defended legislation that Trump can only envy.
Though Trump has proposed massive defunding of the federal government, McCrory and his state legislature have slashed taxes on the super-wealthy and corporations while at the same time raising taxes on the poor and middle class through hikes on gasoline, repairs and maintenance of automobiles.
While Trump has trumpeted his support for low wages, McCrory and his colleagues have quietly barred local municipalities from raising the minimum wage, regulating working conditions, or protecting the safety of children in the workplace. But unlike Trump’s open embrace of low wages, McCrory slid his opposition to higher wages into HB 2, better known as the “bathroom bill, ” which requires transgender citizens to use the restroom designated for the sex listed on their birth certificate.
Much to McCrory’s surprise, his appeal to bigotry and fear blew up in his face, as countless corporations withdrew their investments in the state. Most North Carolinians oppose HB 2, but it is still the law, and McCrory has not yet answered for his protection of low wages and oppressive employers.
The struggle for a living wage in North Carolina and across the nation has been led by sisters and brothers who say they cannot survive on $7.25. But despite his talk of trusting local government, McCrory and the state legislature acted to override movements in cities across this state, some of which had secured the promise of local living wage ordinances. HB 2 isn’t simply about the tournaments that the ACC and NCAA host here. It’s about the thousands of people who work in the hospitality industries in Charlotte and Greensboro. Refusing to meet with them, Pat McCrory has smiled while his policies attack them.
Many of these same poor, working people are among the more than 400, 000 citizens of North Carolina who have no health insurance under the Affordable Care Act because of McCrory’s refusal to expand Medicaid. Conservative estimates suggest that his decision has caused the unnecessary deaths of more than 3, 000 North Carolinians. In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, we need Medicaid Expansion more than ever. Trump has campaigned on a promise to repeal the ACA, but McCrory is way ahead of him; he has engaged in the policy violence of denying North Carolinians billions in federal health care benefits for which they have already been taxed. McCrory clings to myths at the expense of our most vulnerable citizens.
Before the Hollywood Access tape, Trump received the most criticism for his overt racism. He sang lead for the birther chorus against Obama. He called Mexicans “rapists” and claimed that a judge from Indiana could not do his job fairly because his parents were Mexicans. He refused to disavow endorsements from the Ku Klux Klan. He claimed that Obama only got into Columbia and Harvard because he was black and called the ACA “the biggest Affirmative Action in history, ” as if it was only for African Americans. Trump has legitimized an overt racism that America hasn’t witnessed since the days of black and white television.
McCrory, meanwhile, denied racial intent while passing a voter suppression act that the highest federal appeals court in the land struck down, ruling that it “targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision, ” and which the U.S. Supreme court refused to review. Donald Trump has been an openly bigoted candidate. But Pat McCrory has written racism into North Carolina’s law and made its assumptions the basis of everything from education to tax policy.
As the Trump balloon deflates and Republicans across America calculate whether to leave the parade, Americans would do well to pay attention to North Carolina. We have seen the damage extremists can do when they are given power. But we have also seen how people who’ve been pitted against one another by divide-and-conquer tactics can come together across dividing lines in a Moral Movement for the common good. Here in North Carolina, we know the Presidency is too much power for someone driven by greed, lust, and racial fear. But we also know that down ballot positions are far too much power for people who endorse the same policies as Trump, no matter how broad their smile. We must say no to extremism from the bottom of the ballot to the top. We must vote like never before for people who will lead us to higher ground.