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What Went Wrong in North Carolina

In less than two years, Gov. Pat McCrory’s colleagues in the NC legislature have passed the most dramatic array of right-wing legislation in the country.
North Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate, former Charlotte Mayor McCrory meets supporters during U.S. presidential election in Charlotte
North Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory meets supporters outside Myers Park Traditional Elementary school during the U.S. presidential election in Charlotte, North Carolina November 6, 2012.

In 2012, Republican Pat McCrory ran for North Carolina’s governorship as a reformer, vowing to “forget about politics.” He had a strong case. The last Republican Governor--Jim Martin--was elected in 1988--over two decades earlier. The previous two years had also been marked by constant conflict between Democratic Governor Beverly Perdue and the GOP-controlled State Assembly. Perdue vetoed a record nineteen bills during the last two years of her term, when Republicans controlled the Legislature. Eleven of those proposals were overridden. 

But, as Governor McCrory soon learned, you can't exactly "forget about politics" when you work in the field of politics. In less than two years since he took office, McCrory’s colleagues in the North Carolina legislature have passed the most dramatic array of right-wing legislation in the country. Under McCrory, North Carolina has ended the state's tax credit for the working poor, made deep cuts to unemployment benefits, and passed a right to carry concealed guns in bars and parks.

It doesn't end there. The state now has what many believe is the most restrictive voter suppression law in the country. Attacking reproductive rights--something McCrory vowed not to do in office--has become a hallmark of the North Carolina legislature under his watch.

These days, even the Governor himself is almost powerless in fighting the backlash. In 2011—before McCrory took office—the State Assembly passed a bill all-but-requiring women getting abortions to undergo invasive “transvaginal” ultrasounds. When a federal judge struck down the law in January, McCroy was reluctant to appeal it. But conservative legislators—including U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis—called for a legal challenge. The state’s Attorney General appealed the ruling over McCrory’s objections.  And the New York Times wrote on Sunday that McCrory’s latest budget proposal was devoid of any of his signature policy initiatives. As Chris Fitzsimon told the Times, “He’s out somewhere every day touring a factory, cutting a ribbon, and yet he can’t get any significant policy through the General Assembly and he can’t stop things he opposes.”

Things got so extreme that thousands began to attend weekly protests at the state legislature called "Moral Mondays." So how has the legislature responded? By crushing it. Last Thursday, the state revived the "North Carolina Legislative Services Commission--" a group that hasn't met since 1999-- to restrict where protesters can gather in the General Assembly and ban, "singing, clapping, shouting, playing instruments or using sound amplification equipment."