North Carolina took a baby-step yesterday to undo its hateful HB2 “Bathroom Bill” with a watered-down compromise that still leaves our LGBT community open to discrimination until at least 2020. The articulate and passionate Peter Wilbur captured the core of the issue and its many implications for the Democratic Party today on Facebook, for which we have permission to share below.
The ACC is signaling its acceptance of HB 142. News reports have it that Cooper was in constant contact with the NCAA and the NBA during the final phase of negotiations. It is clear now that the “compromise” has worked in terms of lifting the most symbolically important part of the economic boycott against our state: basketball showcases. Whether other groups and companies will follow suit remains to be seen, but surely all sides will claim victory and, as all supporters have been saying, “move on” from this dark chapter in our state’s history. Explicitly stated by Republicans and implied by Democratic supporters is the notion that “common sense” won the day despite resistance by extremists on both the left and the right. That convenient narrative sounds plausible enough until we remember where this law came from in the first place.
HB2 itself was an extreme position. It codified bigotry, among other execrable provisions. There was not a single redeeming line in the law. The idea that compromise is necessary to appease bigotry is ludicrous and morally bankrupt. When seeking a redress of hateful laws, should we not turn first to the groups representing those most affected? Make no mistake: there is near consensus amongst the NAACP, the ACLU, Equality NC, and the Human Rights Campaign that this “compromise” is unacceptable from a standpoint of civil and human rights. But we are going to cheer because hoops are coming back to the state? When it makes us feel good, such as when the Supreme Court affirmed marriage equality, we can all post pictures of a rainbow colored White House, but turn our backs now? We march with Reverend Barber and put him in memes and in quotation marks, but ignore his words now? Broadening the lens, we find editorial pages and writers from across the country condemning this move in publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fortune, Slate, The Nation, Mother Jones, ESPN, and the Charlotte Observer. To be sure, other writers support HB 142. The point is that opposition is not a fringe position.
Today marks the first day of Democratic Party county conventions across the state, and I suspect some bitter conversations will take place, as those on either side of this question consider resolutions and pick new officers. I want to summarize and rebut some of the pushback I have gotten online, both from strangers as well as dear friends.
1) “Don’t tear the party up now. The real enemy is the GOP.” Point well taken. We do need to remain strong. Why can’t we do that by continuing to make the case that the whole debacle lands in the laps of Berger and Moore? You will notice that the real sticking point is the non-discrimination ordinances. If we do not stand for non-discrimination, who are we, exactly? The court of the world’s public opinion is listening closely right now.
2) “Talk about jobs, not social issues,” I often hear. There is some myth out there that huge swaths of unemployed Trumpites are going to flock to the party if we only have an economic message. I am waiting to hear what that is. The solution for our state from a Democratic point of view, it seems to me, is bolstering the education system from pre-K all the way to our fabled research institutions. The engine of economic growth is going to in medicine, research, biotech, and green energy. These sectors need to draw world class, diverse talent. What if we positioned our party boldly as a champion of human rights first? That is how we recruit forward-thinking tech companies, whose workers can command a high quality of life, including protections for people of all walks of life. We play political football with a few bigoted extremists, and the world leaves us behind, tuning in every March to watch us play basketball. The future of the party lies with unaffiliateds and millennials. Research has shown that these groups tend to be socially progressive, especially the young.
3) “We’ve got to support Governor Cooper, especially now.” I do support Roy Cooper. I voted for him, despite fearing exactly this outcome. I also understand his position perfectly. I just don’t agree with it. I think he would have taken a huge hit if he had rejected this compromise. Does that mean I want him to resign immediately? Of course not. Please understand that dissent within one’s own ranks is just as important as disagreeing with the other side. With all of the pushback, maybe he will look for ways in the future to make this right again. At any rate, do we not daily rail against the blind, illogical loyalty of Trump supporters? Should we follow the same course of blind loyalty? The Democratic Party has always been a big-tent coalition. With that comes inevitable dissent. We should embrace the messiness of democracy just like we always have. While some saw Bernie Sanders as a menace to the party, and others as the Messiah, it was not hard to see that his campaign pulled Hillary distinctly to the left.
The bottom line is that if we want change – we need to make it happen. And if you’re disappointed in our party or with our governor, leaving the party is not the way to do it – change will happen from within. So let’s get to work!