Commentary

Editorial pages: How HB2 ensnared McCrory and what it says about his governorship

Gov. Pat McCrory

Gov. Pat McCrory

The drumbeat of editorials and op-eds decrying House Bill 2 continued to fill the editorial pages of the state’s major newspapers this weekend. Here are two, however, that really stood out:

First was Ned Barnett’s dissection of how the new discrimination law came to be in Sunday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. As Barnett explains in “A tangled plan ensnared McCrory in HB2,” the law has clearly backfired on its architects who had planned to use it as a reelection tool for Gov. Pat McCrory. Here’s the conclusion:

“Those who thought they had backed Cooper into a corner didn’t realize that they were putting McCrory’s re-election chances into far greater jeopardy. In the haste and secrecy of the March special session, the get-Cooper bathroom gambit got combined with the Stam-Barefoot wish list. The mixture was explosive. It blew up into a national story, chilled the state’s appeal to businesses, entertainers and tourists and has McCrory backpedaling while declaring no retreat.

Meanwhile, a decision in the Virginia case McCrory so pointedly joined is expected any day. If the plaintiffs prevail, North Carolina could be looking at a loss of billions of dollars in federal aid for violating the rights of transgender people. This is a situation in which Republican lawmakers and strategists thought they were being clever but did something as dumb as it will be costly.”

Meanwhile, Taylor Batten of the Charlotte Observer authored the latest in a series of pointed critiques of McCrory’s performance in office. In “What kind of governor could McCrory have been?” Batten explains how HB2 is symbolic of the way McCrory has been transformed from the moderate mayor of Charlotte into the hapless water carrier for a far right General Assembly in Raleigh:

“He was a good kid, as long as he hung out with the right crowd. Always had a smile on his face, never got into trouble. If he ever started to stray down the wrong path, his friends pulled him back. He got along with everyone and became pretty popular.

Then he moved to a new town, and fell in with a tough bunch of guys. Peer pressure being what it is, he started doing bad things, even though at times deep down he knew better. The smile was replaced by a scowl and he was always getting in trouble. His old friends didn’t like him any more, but his new friends weren’t really his friends and pushed him around a lot.

Poor Pat McCrory. It didn’t have to be this way. But the environment he has found himself in as governor is altogether different from the one he enjoyed as Charlotte’s mayor. And for whatever reason – lack of advisers? lack of vision? lack of spine? – he was never able to adapt.

As I’ve watched him squirm for the past month over House Bill 2, I tried to envision an alternate universe: One in which McCrory is elected governor in 2012 along with a moderate legislature. What kind of governor would he have been?

An entirely different one, I expect. A collaborator. A moderate. Someone who annoyed the far left and the far right but who was widely popular and a near-lock for re-election.

You can rattle off a dozen things McCrory has done in just three years as governor to alienate big chunks of the state. You’d be hard-pressed to name one thing he did in 14 years as mayor that was indelibly polarizing….

Former supporters in Charlotte wonder why McCrory changed. He hasn’t, says fellow Republican Edwin Peacock, who served on the City Council while McCrory was mayor.

‘No, Pat hasn’t changed,’ Peacock said. ‘Pat is in a new environment. The environment Pat is in is one so foreign to where he was for 14 years.’

And because he didn’t adapt, Charlotte voters are looking at a very foreign Pat.”

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