The New Sit-Ins

A freshly outraged group of protestors and their cause — North Carolina itself
UNC Chapel Hill
Dr. Charles van der Horst, a renowned AIDS researcher arrested last week in a protest at the Capitol.

So it's come to this: Doctors, lawyers, academics, professional people, folks who've been around North Carolina for a while and understand what's at stake here, getting arrested at the Capitol in protest not of civil rights violations or nuclear waste dumps near subdivisions but what's come to be general-issue Republican governance.

Oh, I know, hippie leftovers singing "This Little Light of Mine," getting arrested in lieu of going to see the Dead, "tenured radicals," isn't that the phrase? People who fail to grasp the realities of job creation in a 21st-century economy?

Except they understand something the current troupe of scorched-earthers in the legislature don't. History, for a lot of these people, seems to have begun around 2010 or so. The state's first-rate public universities, good infrastructure and high quality of life for its citizens didn't just materialize out of the ether. They were the result of good choices and investments down through the decades that this General Assembly and governor are setting ablaze:

This was a period when governors of both parties, from Jim Holshouser to Jim Hunt, helped build on that tradition, seeking to move in positive directions to attract outside firms that would pay better wages, hire more skilled workers and improve the state’s economy. These leaders, Republicans as well as Democrats, helped make the Research Triangle Park and cities like Charlotte magnets for out-of-town businesses that came to create new jobs in a state noted for being modern and fair – a good place to live, not just a state with cheap labor and low taxes.

That history is one that our current legislature and governor now seek to reverse: by denying 500,000 people health care through Medicaid, even though it would not cost the state a cent for the first two years; by restricting women’s access to reproductive health care; by terminating unemployment payments for more than 160,000 workers laid off through no fault of their own; by endangering the right to vote of tens of thousands of people through curtailing early voting and requiring state-issued picture IDs; by cutting taxes on the rich, and increasing them on the poor; by telling a father in New Bern that if his daughter chooses to vote in Boone, where she attends Appalachian State, instead of traveling five hours back to New Bern to cast her ballot, the father can no longer claim his daughter as a dependent on his tax return.

This political juggernaut runs totally contrary to what North Carolina has stood for during the last half century. It represents class warfare against the middle class and the working-class residents of our state. Justice lies at the core of our civic life. And we are all responsible for sustaining that justice.

That's why what's happening here matters. The right-wing takeover of state government is both pilot project and warning. North Carolina is hurtling toward a new age of robber baron, class-divide governance that could serve as a model for state after state, and those stakes are enough to get some of our most educated and comfortable citizens out on the hustings and into jail. That should tell us all something.

Categories: Poking the Hornet’s Nest