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Progressive Protest Beat McCrory in GOP-Leaning North Carolina

When petitioner Jack Heyd announced his desire to drag South Dakota through the bathroom-panic mud again, I noted that anti-trans paranoia backfired against North Carolina Republican Governor Pat McCrory.

As McCrory has now given up on his recount and conceded to Democratic victor Roy Cooper, the Raleigh News-Observer reinforces the thesis that signing North Carolina’s transgender-bullying bathroom bill cost the Republican his job even among a Republican-meaning electorate:

McCrory’s loss to Cooper came in an otherwise favorable year for Republican statewide candidates in North Carolina. Both presidential candidate Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr easily won the state, and the GOP picked up three Council of State positions currently held by Democrats: Insurance commissioner, state treasurer and superintendent of public instruction.

McCrory lost votes in urban areas because of his strong support for House Bill 2, the controversial law that among other provisions requires transgender people in government facilities to use the bathroom that corresponds to their birth certificates.

HB2 has prompted numerous sporting events to be moved outside North Carolina, as well as conferences and some corporate expansions – resulting in millions of dollars in economic losses. Opponents of the law made McCrory their main target, and the national LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign was one of the first groups to celebrate the governor’s concession speech Monday.

“Pat McCrory’s reign of discrimination is finally over,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a news release. “McCrory’s stubborn and reckless support of HB2 cost him this election, and his defeat sends a powerful warning to lawmakers across the country that targeting LGBTQ people will not be tolerated” [Colin Campbell, “Pat McCrory Concedes; Roy Cooper Next NC Governor,” Raleigh News-Observer, 2016.12.05]

Also dragging McCrory down was his support for privatizing and profitizing I-77:

McCrory also fared poorly in Charlotte’s Republican-leaning northern suburbs around Lake Norman. Much of the opposition to the governor there didn’t involve bathrooms: Voters were upset that McCrory wouldn’t stop a plan to build toll lanes on Interstate 77, the main commuter route in the area that has some of the region’s worst traffic jams [link added; Campbell, 2016.12.05].

Public Policy Polling contends that Cooper lost on a wide range of unpopular positions, including his opposition to Medicaid expansion and support for sneaky abortion restrictions, guns in bars, eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit, cutting unemployment benefits, reducing the early voting period, and removing the straight-party-ticket option from the ballot. But unpopular legislation didn’t cost McCrory the 2016 election all by itself; it required progressive protest to keep these issues on the front burner:

the Moral Monday movement pushed back hard. Its constant visibility forced all of these issues to stay in the headlines. Its efforts ensured that voters in the state were educated about what was going on in Raleigh, and as voters became aware of what was going on, they got mad. All those people who had seen McCrory as a moderate, as a different kind of Republican, had those views quickly changed. By July McCrory had a negative approval rating- 40% of voters approving of him to 49% who disapproved. By September it was all the way down to 35/53, and he never did fully recover from the damage the rest of his term.

Moral Mondays became a very rare thing- a popular protest movement. In August 2013 we found 49% of voters had a favorable opinion of the protesters to only 35% with an unfavorable opinion of them. And their message was resonating- 50% of voters in the state felt state government was causing North Carolina national embarrassment to only 34% who disagreed with that notion [Tom Jensen, “Why Pat McCrory Lost and What It Means in Trump’s America,” Public Policy Polling, 2016.12.05].

PPP’s Jensen says McCrory’s defeat is a lesson for all Americans who want to resist the looming Führer in Washington and, I suggest, for all of us progressive South Dakotans who want to resist the nefarious intentions of our unchecked radical Republican Legislature:

Pushing back hard on McCrory worked. The seeds of his final defeat today were very much planted in the summer of 2013. And it’s a lesson for progressives in dealing with Trump. Push back hard from day one. Be visible. Capture the public’s attention, no matter what you have to do to do it. Don’t count on the media to do it itself because the media will let you down. The protesters in North Carolina, by making news in their own right week after week after week, forced sustained coverage of what was going on in Raleigh. And even though it was certainly a long game, with plenty more frustration in between, those efforts led to change at the polls 42 months after they really started [Jensen, 2016.12.05].

Democratic legislators, O you mighty few! Don’t mute your criticism of the Republican majority in the faint and foolish hope that Greenfield, Mickelson, Curd, and Qualm will compromise and help you advance one or one and a half of your Legislative priorities. Recognize that your sole role this Session is to muster the opposition and ceaselessly sound the alarm. Recognize that, as the highest elected officials in the state on the side of liberty, justice, and opportunity for all, your primary obligation is to shine the spotlight on Republican efforts to exclude and stigmatize South Dakotans who don’t heed their call to sexual or religious or ideological conformity (and people say Democrats play identity politics? Ha!).

Your voices, Democratic legislators, can work in concert with groups like the new progressive protest group LEAD South Dakota, which declares its intent to push back early and hard in this open letter to Governor Dennis Daugaard:

We are a growing, inclusive community that supports, empowers and encourages the participation of women in all stages of the political process. Many of us will pursue an active role in the state Legislature in Pierre, fighting for legislation that improves the lives of women and families and against legislation that threatens to discriminate marginalized groups in our state. Any legislation that impedes the rights of individuals based upon any legally protected status, including gender, must not become law. In some cases, you will be our best and last hope. We South Dakotans are counting on you to uphold our invaluable freedoms.

Statewide movements are forming to engage individuals, prepare candidates for political office, and to amplify the voices of determined women ready to support positive change in South Dakota. Throughout the remainder of your term, you can count on regularly hearing from us and our allies. We will make our voices heard and we will take an active role in the processes that shape our state, our nation, and our shared future [LEAD South Dakota, letter to Governor Dennis Daugaard, posted in Robert Mehling, “LEAD South Dakota Drafts Letter to Governor,” The Sioux Empire Podcast, 2016.12.03].

Now is not the time to shut off the discussion of social justice issues and pretend that we just need to talk about money to win the white working class vote. Now is the time to argue that social justice is inextricably linked to economic justice—or, more plainly, that we Democrats give a darn about everyone and will fight from Day One the Trumpists in Washington and Pierre who do not. Vigorous progressive protest worked in North Carolina; it can work in South Dakota and nationwide.


  1. Dicta 2016-12-06

    This guy screamed voter fraud in a state that received the most intense scrutiny for obvious voter suppression efforts when a couple of individuals challenged registrations in areas with a high percentage of black voters. Seriously: to hell with this guy.

  2. Laurisa 2016-12-06

    The only reason North Carolina appears to be “GOP leaning” is because of its horrendously partisan gerrymandering. There were actually more votes statewide for Democrats than the GOP, but the districts are so gerrymandered in favor of the GOP that it didn’t matter. NC is actually so badly gerrymandered that a recent court decision (can’t remember if it was the NC Supreme Court or a federal court) has ordered the current districting abolished and new districts drawn.

    Granted, the GOP will be in charge of that redistricting, but they now realize that they will be heavily scrutinized and may not be quite as obviously partisan this time. Then again, this is the new GOP we’re talking about, where they do whatever they want and the hell with the courts and the rule of law if it doesn’t give them exactly what they want.

  3. Porter Lansing 2016-12-06

    Excellent!! “Social justice is inextricably linked to economic justice.” Justice is justice just as correctness is correctness, no matter what qualifier is prefixed.

  4. jerry 2016-12-07

    What could be more social justice than that of defending Indian rights to healthcare and inclusivity in how we define employment as another example. Why do we exclude Indians from unemployment numbers but include them in ways to bring water lines into reservation lands that would go through non reservation areas? Social justice is absolutely linked to economic justice. Look at the maps of where solid Democratic votes are, you will see that Indians have always believed in the social justice that progressives stand for because they actually are progressive.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-12-08

    Laurisa, you’re right: as in South Dakota, gerrymandering in NC and everywhere else skews power toward the GOP and dilutes the actual power of Dems and progressives of other flavors.

    Still, gerrymandering doesn’t affect the fact that Trump carried North Carolina (though by a slim 3.6%), and we were able to pick up a Democratic Governor’s seat. That split makes North Carolina a good roadmap for Democratic resistance and victory.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-12-08

    Jerry, I agree completely. Dems should campaign on focusing GOED on reservation development. Campaign to the Left on social justice, campaign to the Right on economic/fiscal practicality: boost the reservations, get jobs for Indians, and Indians cost us less in social services, law enforcement, etc. Everybody wins.

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