Opinion: The Consequences of Ron Carlee's Departure

Also: the S.C. primary and the Confederates coming out of the attic
Logan Cyrus

Couple of quick, and unrelated, things:

We don’t know every detail of City Manager Ron Carlee’s decision this week not to renew his contract when it expires at the end of March. But there’s little doubt about the source of the tension between Carlee and the City Council, which reportedly was thinking about making the non-renewal its decision and not the manager’s. It has to do with control.

Carlee was hired under difficult and well-documented difficulties, and in part because he came from outside the city with an expansive view of what a city manager could and should do. He was more visible and outspoken than any of his predecessors, and given the crises he inherited and managed—the airport, a budget shortfall, the arrest of ex-Mayor Patrick Cannon, and the Randall Kerrick case—he probably needed to be. (In his letter to the council Wednesday, he said the resolution of those matters was one reason for his decision: “The work that I came to help the Council achieve has largely been accomplished.”) But the city manager’s job is to handle the day-to-day operations of the city, and it was in the day-to-day that Carlee seemed to irk the board at whose pleasure he serves.

Of course, it’s the council’s right to decide what it wants from a city manager. If you go by the book, the manager’s job is to enact policies council members set, not drive policy. Then again, the book has some years on it. A manager who merely takes orders from the council might have worked 20 or 30 years ago, before Charlotte’s rise into the roster of major American cities. Now, events here can move with more speed and force than a board that meets weekly can handle, and the city manager is in a better position to call shots quickly than, say, a part-time mayor with little formal power.

Carlee’s departure won’t make or break the city’s future, and Charlotte has some qualified assistant managers who’d do a fine job if council members decide to go the traditional route for Carlee’s successor. But if they ever want to look outside again and grab someone with more experience than a career in Charlotte provides, they might want to consider the kinds of candidates they’re likely to get if the candidates know they’ll be working for an 11-headed micromanager.

I wrote Sunday about Donald Trump’s victory in the South Carolina GOP primary, and suggested at the end that his core message—basically, “America shall rise again”—had natural appeal for the state that was first in line to secede from the Union. I thought the appeal lay in tone. I didn’t quite grasp that it’d be in substance, too. From a New York Times story on post-primary exit poll data (emphasis mine):

The P.P.P. poll asked voters if they thought whites were a superior race. Most Republican primary voters in South Carolina — 78 percent — disagreed with this idea (10 percent agreed and 11 percent weren’t sure). But among Mr. Trump’s supporters, only 69 percent disagreed. Mr. Carson’s voters were the most opposed to the notion (99 percent), followed by Mr. Kasich and Mr. Cruz’s supporters at 92 and 89 percent. Mr. Rubio’s backers were close to the average level of disagreement (76 percent).

According to P.P.P., 70 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters in South Carolina wish the Confederate battle flag were still flying on their statehouse grounds. (It was removed last summer less than a month after a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston.) The polling firm says that 38 percent of them wish the South had won the Civil War. Only a quarter of Mr. Rubio’s supporters share that wish, and even fewer of Mr. Kasich’s and Mr. Carson’s do.

Nationally, further analyses of the YouGov data show a similar trend: Nearly 20 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters disagreed with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Southern states during the Civil War. Only 5 percent of Mr. Rubio’s voters share this view.

Mr. Trump’s popularity with white, working-class voters who are more likely than other Republicans to believe that whites are a supreme race and who long for the Confederacy may make him unpopular among leaders in his party. But it’s worth noting that he isn’t persuading voters to hold these beliefs. The beliefs were there — and have been for some time.

Eight years ago, seemingly serious people were floating the theory that we now lived in a “post-racial society,” that the election of Barack Obama as president represented some grand step forward for the national culture. Silly them. This is the ugly backlash, the bill come due. The Confederates are descending from the attic.

Categories: The Buzz