North Carolina Will Be America’s National Nightmare if Republicans Control Government

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A portent is a warning that something, usually something calamitous, is likely to happen that should move intelligent human beings to action to prevent a disaster if it is within their power. Many Americans understand, and warned voters, that it would be calamitous and a threat to their well-being if Republicans controlled all three branches of the federal government. With their inclination toward religious extremism, pandering to the wealthy, destroying democracy, and addiction to creating a sick population steeped in poverty, one can only imagine the nightmare of an America under Republican control.

After the 2010 midterm elections, many Americans in red states where teabaggers and extremist Republicans swept into power learned their failure to heed Democrats’ warnings was a monumental error. Residents in states such as Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida, Ohio, and Texas can attest to the disaster Republicans can wreak on a population, but likely North Carolina is the true predictor and portent of tragedy inherent when Republicans hold the reins of power. Although other Republican-controlled states feel the influence of the Koch brothers’ vision of a transformed America, North Carolinians suffer the added influence of a state-level Koch brother with inordinate power over the governor.

Recently, at the Heritage Foundation, North Carolina’s governor represented himself as a corporate acolyte exalting the benefits of government efficiency measures and infrastructure development, but he was not describing himself. In the course of less than a year, with a Republican-dominated legislature, Pat McCrory laid waste to millions of North Carolinians in what Republicans see as a model for the rest of the states and the nation. In fact, Republicans and their Heritage Foundation masters likely consider North Carolina’s experiment in extreme conservatism a raging success because N.C. Republicans’ campaign against women, the poor, and people of color is inflicting real pain with little relief or hope for change in the near future. There is a backlash against McCrory and Republicans by a coalition of “groups including the NAACP, labor unions, environmental groups, and abortion-rights advocates,” but with the Republicans’ restrictive voting laws and redistricting, their hope for change is “a long term goal.”

If Americans truly want to envision what living in a nation governed by conservative purists entails, there is no better representation of a “transformed America” according to the Koch brothers’ than North Carolina. In the Kochs’ vision, education spending is a travesty, and North Carolina Republicans cut more than half-a-billion dollars from public education this summer in addition to greater cuts in 2011 directly after the 2010 midterm elections put Republicans in control of the state legislature. The cuts mean larger class sizes, drastically less money for school supplies, and at least 5,000 teachers will lose their jobs with no hope of unemployment benefits.

In July, McCrory cut off jobless benefits to 70,000 unemployed North Carolinians for no apparent reason other than expanding the poverty ranks. McCrory eliminated unemployment benefits and rejected over $700 million in federal money to help the unemployed because he opposed a contingency that the state did not cut benefits. Rejecting the federal funding informs McCrory was going to eliminate unemployment benefits one way or the other, and according to a National Employment Law Project lawyer, McCrory’s action is “the harshest unemployment insurance program cuts in our nation’s history.”

To augment suffering for unemployed and poor residents, McCrory joined 23 other Republican-controlled states in rejecting Medicaid expansion citing budget control measures. However, the federal government picks up 100% of the cost for the first three years and covers at least 90% of the costs thereafter. Rejecting free healthcare for the state’s poorest residents has nothing to do with budgetary controls, and everything to do with a conservative policy of keeping poor people sick because good health is a privilege reserved for the wealthy.

North Carolina Republicans enacted a favorite conservative Christian policy and Governor McCrory followed Texas governor Rick Perry’s lead in signing severe abortion restrictions despite his campaign pledge not to support further limitations on abortion. The Draconian abortion law likely will close all but on abortion clinic, and was covertly slipped into a bill dealing with motorcycle safety measures. Besides closing down most of the state’s abortion clinics, the legislation also eliminated abortion coverage in private healthcare plans for city and county employees as well as those in private healthcare exchange plans under the Affordable Care Act.

Unfortunately McCrory and Republicans’ extreme right-wing policies are not in danger of being overturned anytime soon because North Carolina took little time restricting voting rights shortly after the conservative Supreme Court struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Besides blocking over 316,000 North Carolinians’ right to vote due to ALEC model voter ID laws, Republicans eliminated same-day voter registration, severely cut early voting, and ended a program allowing high-school students to pre-register to vote. Republicans did not even use “voter fraud” as justification for “the most comprehensive attack on the right to vote that this state has enacted since the institution of Jim Crow” according to North Carolina’s NAACP president. The real reason (racism) was revealed when a local Republican official said, “If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”

If Americans think McCrory and the Republican legislature’s extremist agenda is localized to a southern red state and could never happen at the federal level, they are deluded; every one of the harsh policies has been proposed by Republicans in Congress. Whether it is eliminating abortion rights, abolishing unemployment benefits, cutting education spending, weakening campaign finance laws, ending healthcare for the poor, giving tax cuts to the rich at the expense of the poor, or redistricting to benefit Republican candidates, there is nothing McCrory hasn’t enacted that congressional Republicans do not support and have not attempted. Although voting laws are the purview of the states, Republicans in Congress have not made any attempt to adjust the Voting Rights Act according to the suggestion of the Supreme Court.

For many Americans, what has transpired in North Carolina is a cautionary tale, a portent of what America under Republican control will look like; it is reality for the people of North Carolina. Although there is a movement to change the conditions in North Carolina, there is no hope of change in the near future. It is important to remember that what happened in North Carolina is the result of the 2010 midterm elections and voters who failed to heed the warnings that if Republicans gain control of the government they will impose extreme right wing policies and make sure Koch’s vision of a transformed America reaches fruition just like they did in North Carolina.

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