Echoes of Trumpism continue to dominate the General Assembly
While his serial dishonesty and corruption, his criminal negligence in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and his complicity in a failed coup have clearly combined to make Donald Trump one of the worst presidents in the world. In American history, you have to hand over the former CEO one thing: the man continues to inspire slavish loyalty in his blinded supporters.
In few places this is more evident than the North Carolina General Assembly where, as lawmakers rush to meet the May 13 “crossover deadline” by shoveling dozens of minimally revised bills from house to house, the Trumpian reaction remains the dominant theme.
A decade ago, when Republicans assumed control of the legislature, there was still a plausible notion that modern “conservatism” retained a connection (at least in some corners) to such things as limited government, the equal opportunity, shared sacrifice and altruistic public service.
Today, as Donald Trump would say of Americans who sacrificed their lives for the good of the nation in past wars, such concepts, are – at least as far as the political choices of the GOP politicians who run the General Assembly are concerned – for suckers.
On the contrary, as has been the case for the past four years in Washington, raw power is the name of the game in the Legislature these days and the top political priorities are those that have long been associated with true and aspiring autocrats. like Trump: exerting control over disadvantaged groups, using fear-based and emotional appeals on social issues to distract and incite supporters, privatizing public structures and services and, of course, profiting.
If that sounds overkill, consider some of the bills that state legislative leaders have prioritized in the spring of 2021 – a time of ongoing crisis in which hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians continue to suffer mightily from the devastating effects of a deep and unprecedented crisis. health and economic crises:
Restrictions on abortion – House Bill 453 is a cynical effort to create burdensome and potentially dangerous new barriers to reproductive health care by forcing doctors to ask their patients why they choose to have an abortion. Not only does the bill require doctors to certify that grounds are not on a blacklist, it also attempts to block a patient’s constitutionally protected right to care.
Meanwhile, in a revival of ill-conceived bill that Governor Cooper vetoed in 2019, the Senate also proposed a measure with the absurd title “Protection of Survivors of Live-Born Abortion Act”.
Teacher monitoring and micromanagement – As if teachers at North Carolina’s public schools weren’t already overwhelmed by the pandemic, low salaries, often crumbling facilities, heavy paperwork, incessant testing demands and overcrowded classrooms, the far right, conspiracy-obsessed lawmakers are now pushing a “big brother” invoice this would require every teacher to post all textbooks and other reading materials as well as videos, digital materials and other applications used in classrooms on school websites. The irony here, of course, is that if there is one group of teachers in the state whose curricula need to be monitored, it is those who teach in the state’s voucher schools, championed by the GOP, where students are frequently subjected to a fundamentalist religion disguised as science and history.
Riot legislation – House Speaker Tim Moore’s response to the social unrest that plagued the nation last year following the murder of George Floyd in the tumultuous first months of the pandemic has been to promote a bill that would further tighten criminal penalties for “riots”. North Carolina ACLU legitimately lambasted the bill as “a dangerous idea which undermines the very foundation of participatory democracy”.
And the list continues. At the last check, legislators put forward bills for, among other things:
- make it more difficult to vote,
- extend discriminatory and irresponsible school vouchers,
- force county sheriffs to help with immigration enforcement against their will,
- erect roadblocks to more widespread COVID-19 vaccinations,
- make it even easier to expel and arrest students for behavior at school,
- make it even easier to get guns and hide them in more places,
- make it more difficult to regulate polluters and predatory lenders, and
- make it more difficult for employees to sue their employers for retaliation for a protected activity.
Meanwhile, Medicaid expansion remains a pipe dream, and pro-discrimination bills targeting transgender people in North Carolina have been almost certainly only removed from the 2021 agenda after the intervention of Apple Computer in recent weeks as a condition of the agreement of the giant company to bring a new campus in Wake County.
And, of course, just to complete the Trumpian picture, there was the recent State House decision approve tax relief for those who received paycheck protection program loans – a move that will directly benefit at least a quarter of the organization’s membership. There is now an action that Donald Trump would understand!
The bottom line: Donald Trump is quickly fading from the national conversation, but sadly here in North Carolina his toxic and cynical brand of power politics lives on stubbornly. One can only hope that another round of sustained vetoes from governors over the next few months sends a powerful and lasting message that the Trump wave has reached its peak and will soon recede.