Commentary

Author of “Democracy in Chains” to headline July 26 luncheon

NC Policy Watch presents a special Crucial Conversation luncheon:

Prof. Nancy MacLean on her provocative new book, “Democracy in Chains” 

Click here to register.

Prof. Nancy MacLean of Duke University is an award-winning scholar of the twentieth-century U.S., whose new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America, has been described by Publishers Weekly as “a thoroughly researched and gripping narrative… [and] a feat of American intellectual and political history.” Booklist called it “perhaps the best explanation to date of the roots of the political divide that threatens to irrevocably alter American government.”

The author of four other books, including Freedom is Not Enough: The Opening of the American Workplace (2006) called by the Chicago Tribune “contemporary history at its best,” and Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan, named a New York Times “noteworthy” book of 1994, MacLean is the William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy. Her articles and review essays have appeared in American Quarterly, The Boston Review, Feminist Studies, Gender & History, In These Times, International Labor and Working Class History, Labor, Labor History, Journal of American History, Journal of Women’s History, Law and History Review, The Nation, the OAH Magazine of History, and many edited collections.

Professor MacLean’s scholarship has received more than a dozen prizes and awards and been supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowships Foundation. In 2010, she was elected a fellow of the Society of American Historians, which recognizes literary distinction in the writing of history and biography. Also an award-winning teacher and committed graduate student mentor, she offers courses on post-1945 America, social movements, and public policy history.

Don’t miss the opportunity hear from this important author at this critical time for our country.

Please note: The book will be available for purchase at the event and Prof. MacLean will remain after her talk to autograph copies.

When: Wednesday July 26, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m..

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Cost: $15, admission includes a box lunch. Scholarships available on advance request.

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

Editorial: “Second chance” bill on Guv’s desk is an important step forward

The Wilson Times had a fine recent editorial — reprinted today in the Greenville Daily Reflector — about the important bipartisan bill that was passed by state lawmakers this session (and currently awaits Governor Cooper’s signature) to reform and update state expunction laws for ex-criminal offenders.

Here is an excerpt.

“A bipartisan group of state lawmakers took a positive step toward reform late last month in passing a bill that streamlines the criminal record expunction process, allowing for more common sense and even a little mercy.

Senate Bill 445 modifies the process for expunction, also known as expungement. It used to be a once-in-a-lifetime proposition — if a judge granted your petition to expunge a criminal charge from your record, you could never file another one. Even if subsequent charges were filed in error and tossed out by a judge or prosecutor, they’d remain on your record for life.

The recently passed bill eliminates that provision and sets guidelines for expunction of criminal convictions and criminal charges.

If you plead guilty or are convicted of a crime, the system is right to scrutinize your request for removal with a fine-toothed comb. However, if you were falsely accused of a crime and then exonerated, erasing that mark shouldn’t require as much elbow grease.

SB 445 categorizes expunctions by the offender’s age and the severity of the crime. There are different requirements for first offenders convicted of misdemeanors while under 18, first offenders convicted of minor drug offenses while under 21, first offenders convicted of nonviolent felonies while under 18, adult offenders convicted of certain misdemeanors and felonies and adult offenders convicted of prostitution.

Convictions that cannot be expunged include high-grade felonies (classes A-G), Class A1 misdemeanors, assault offenses, sex offenses, stalking, using or selling methamphetamine and heroin, selling cocaine, impaired driving and felonies involving commercial motor vehicles.

Stakeholders struck a balance between holding people accountable for the decisions they make and helping them earn a clean slate when they can demonstrate they have changed their ways.

The existence of a criminal record can make it difficult for ex-offenders to participate in society. Prospective employers, landlords, colleges and even volunteer programs place a lot of stock in record checks and what they reveal. Trapping people in a cycle of crime and punishment has negative effects on entire communities.

The standards for expunging a conviction are fair and reasonable. The reforms for expunging charges that don’t result in convictions could go even further, placing the burden for correction on police and prosecutors. Regardless, this effort is a good first step.”

Commentary

Trump ‘conspiracy of dunces’ comes into sharper focus

This morning’s lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer, “Donald Trump, Jr. provides a smoking gun,” is exactly right when it describes the latest developments in the absurd Trump saga this way:

“The president’s son released emails Tuesday (seemingly in an effort to undercut a pending release by The New York Times) that show he met with a Russian lawyer who he believed would provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton ‘as part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.’ Those emails show explicitly that the Trump campaign at the highest levels – Trump Jr., top White House adviser Jared Kushner, former campaign manager Paul Manafort – knowingly tried to collude with the Russian government. That’s why July 11, 2017, will not soon be forgotten.

Before Tuesday, supporters of President Trump could make a plausible case that even if Russia interfered in our elections, as top intelligence officials have said happened, the Trump camp didn’t know and shouldn’t be blamed.

Screaming by the president and his supporters about ‘liberal media’ and ‘fake news’ every time news they didn’t like surfaced has never been credible. Such a defense is even more specious now. Maybe that’s why some of the president’s supporters have taken the unseemly step of trying to downplay actual evidence of potential collusion with a foreign power.

Multiple denials by Trump campaign officials about questionable contacts with Russia have turned out to be false, including those by Vice President Mike Pence and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president has frequently called investigations about Russia a witch hunt. But after these revelations, it’s imperative we find out how deep and how effective were the efforts by Trump’s associates to help Russia undermine our democracy.”

Meanwhile, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (a reluctant Trump defender for some time) describes the state of things this way in “A Conspiracy of Dunces”:

“So while this is not direct evidence that the president of the United States was complicit in a virtual burglary perpetrated against the other party during an election season, it’s strong evidence that we should drop the presumption that such collusion is an extreme or implausible scenario….

In the end, impeachment is political, not legal, and the House G.O.P. probably won’t impeach for anything short of a transcript of a call between Trump and Putin in which the words “yes, I want you to hack their servers big-league, Vladimir” appear in black-and-white. And even then ….

But right now, the 2018 congressional elections promise to be a de facto referendum on impeachment. There are enough sparks in the smoke; there will probably be fire for some of Trump’s intimates before another year is out.

And as for the president himself — well, to conclude where I began, anyone presuming his innocence at this point should have all the confidence of Chris Christie awaiting his cabinet appointment, or Sean Spicer reading over the day’s talking points. Keep an eye on that Trump-monogrammed rug under your feet; it may not be there for long.”

Commentary

Judging by today’s event, protesters are starting to get to Tillis

It’s dumb mistake that almost all elected officials succumb to at one time or another, but with a relatively experienced politician like Thom Tillis, you think he’d already know better. Unfortunately, it looks like North Carolina’s junior senator will have to learn his lesson the hard way.

And that lesson?

Don’t disrespect your constituents.

Oh, there’s no doubt it’s got to be tempting — especially when the constituents in question are protesters who disagree with your actions on their behalf. But, make no mistake, today’s unfortunate action by Senator Tillis and his staff to refuse access to his Raleigh office — even to folks that merely wanted to deliver a letter on the Senate healthcare bill on behalf of the 100+ protesters outside — was a major blunder. (Note: A Facebook report from High Point indicates Tillis has called in the police to keep wild and crazy protesters away there as well.)

Instead of simply receiving — and maybe even, God forbid, patiently listening to — the heartfelt pleas of the assembled activists who braved the heat and humidity to turn out for the umpteenth straight Tuesday, Tillis’ people called out the security and the yellow police tape to keep constituents away. Click here to listen to a very nonthreatening protester named Michael Eisenberg explain in a Facebook video how he was denied the opportunity to deliver a letter to his senator.

Dr. Erica Pettigrew speaking at today’s Tillis protest

The bottom line: Today’s protest was another all-American, wholesome-as-apple-pie effort by an incredibly earnest and caring group of citizens — many of them grandparents and moms with kids in strollers. The featured speaker, Orange County physician Erica Pettigrew, gave a fabulous and heartfelt description of some of her struggling clients who would be grievously harmed by the U.S. Senate’s Trumpcare proposal. It’s simply outrageous that Tillis and Richard Burr will not even meet with and listen to such loving and intelligent people.

Unfortunately for Tillis (and fortunately for the growing movement against his policy positions), today’s boneheaded decision to shut the protesters out and treat them with such little respect all but guarantees that more and more people will be heeding future protest calls. Stay tuned. There may be a time in the not-too-distant future in which Tillis looks back longingly on the 29% approval rating he enjoys today.

Commentary

New analysis: N.C. and U.S. growing more diverse; General Assembly isn’t keeping up

The latest “Prosperity Watch” report from the the N. C Budget and Tax Center offers some interesting data on North Carolina’s growing diversity and the failure of the make-up of state elected leaders to mirror that trend.

A review of our state’s demographics shows North Carolina is a growing and diverse state. This is great news for our state, considering decades of research have shown that being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working. Unfortunately, statistics also show that North Carolina’s General Assembly is less diverse than both the U.S. and state general population, as only 22 percent of its body is composed of minorities, compared to U.S (38 percent) and NC (36 percent) populations. This is of serious concern, considering that the terms of democratic representation and voting rights are currently being legislated to limit rather than expand participation.

In 1790, the first U.S. census found that America’s population stood at 3.8 million and that North Carolina’s population was 393,751. Today, the U.S. population stands at 325.3 million, while North Carolina’s population is 10.1 million. In North Carolina, Latinos represent 9 percent of the state’s population and Asians 3 percent. These represent half for the share each group represents in the U.S. population overall, respectively 18 percent and 6 percent. The current percentage of African Americans (22 percent) and American Indian/Native Americans (2 percent) in NC is higher compared to the the general population in the U.S., respectively 13 percent and 1 percent.

The strength of our economy and democracy is highly dependent on how equitably opportunity and representation are available to all North Carolinians and Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity. An elected government that represents everyone can only lead to a stronger state and nation.