North Carolina Reverts to Red

The state Obama famously captured from Republicans in 2008 is about to enact a flurry of conservative laws.

  • Share
  • Read Later
Corey Lowenstein / AP

Governor Pat McCrory, flanked by members of North Carolina's general assembly at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh on July 23, 2013.

Four years ago, North Carolina was thought to be in transition, a Southern state turning blue in President Obama’s “new America.” But at the close of its legislative session last Friday, the Tar Heel State showed its true hue: deep red.

Since the state’s legislative session began in January, lawmakers have blocked a Medicaid expansion under Obama’s Affordable Care Act, reduced access to federal unemployment benefits, cut the corporate tax rate, trimmed public-education funding, passed a bill that allows concealed weapons in bars and restaurants, tackled welfare reform, proposed a ban on Shari‘a, restricted access to abortion and enacted stricter voting laws.

It had been over a century since the GOP held both the legislature and governor’s mansion in the moderate state, but after Republicans seized control of both houses of the general assembly in 2010, drew redistricting maps that will help solidify their control on local and federal levels over the next several years, and elected the first Republican governor since 1988 last November, state lawmakers were poised to push forward with their new, conservative agenda.

And so they have.

Over the next 30 days, Governor Pat McCrory will see 60 bills come across his desk, after what has been one of the most dramatic shifts in the political leanings of a state during one legislative session in recent history. The governor has been openly critical of a few bills; he plans to veto a proposal to drug-test welfare recipients and opposes another requiring employers to verify the immigration status of their workers.

(MORE: Moral Mondays: Religious Progressives Protest North Carolina Policies)

But overall, the governor said Friday he has been pleased with the legislative session. “We’ve had more reform in this state government in the past six months than we’ve seen in the past 30 years,” McCrory said at a press conference.

Republicans across the state agree.

“What they’ve done this year is enact landmark legislation and advance freedom and chances for economic prosperity,” said Francis DeLuca, president of Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank in North Carolina. “These are fundamental reforms that we’ve needed for a while.”

While change has undoubtedly come, Democrats argue it has arrived at the expense of North Carolinians, many of whom have been expressing disapproval for the measures since the session began.

The most outspoken backlash against the policies has come in the form of Moral Monday demonstrations where protesters have been gathering at the capitol in Raleigh since April 29. More than 900 people have been arrested and thousands have gathered, led by local religious leaders, to express their distaste for the state’s markedly conservative agenda.

After the legislative session ended Friday, the protesters gathered for a Mass Moral Monday March to the state capitol where they held an Interfaith Social Justice Rally.

Republican leaders have written off the protests, going so far as to call them “Moron Monday” rallies for “aged hippies” in op-ed columns in local newspapers.

NAACP Protests

Gerry Broome/AP

Capitol police keep an eye on Moral Monday protests outside the house and senate chambers at the state legislature in Raleigh, N.C., on July 1, 2013

Despite being shrugged off by Republicans, the backlash against decisionmaking in the legislature is growing, according to a recent poll. A July survey conducted by Public Policy Polling, a Raleigh-based polling firm, found that 49% of voters disapprove of the governor’s performance and 56% of voters disapprove of the general assembly’s performance. The governor’s approval rating is down 15 points from June, but the general assembly’s rating has not changed over the past month, according to Public Policy Polling.

“People are disgusted by what the Republican leadership has been doing to North Carolina,” North Carolina senate minority whip Josh Stein tells TIME. “There’s a real culture shock here — North Carolinians are inherently moderate people. We focus on the fundamentals,” Stein says. “They’re focusing on an extreme agenda that’s damaging to the state.”

Among the most controversial pieces of legislation are two bills that passed through the house and senate just days before the session came to a close.

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision that struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, the state legislature passed a sweeping voting bill that reduces early voting by a week, requires voters to present photo identification at the polls, ends an early-registration program and nixes same-day voter registration. Critics say those policies will depress turnout from voters who typically lean democratic.

After failing to attach new restrictions on abortion to a bill that prohibits the application of “foreign law,” aimed at the specter of Islamic Shari‘a, state lawmakers added the language to a bill on motorcycle safety. (The legislation was lampooned by the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union as the “#motorcyclevagina bill.”) As a result of the legislation, those with government-administered insurance plans will not have abortions covered, except in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life is in danger. The Department of Health and Human Services is also authorized to apply the same standards it would to ambulatory surgical centers to abortion clinics, though they are not required to meet the standards.

McCrory signed the abortion bill on Monday, though he vowed he wouldn’t sign any restrictive women’s-health bills when campaigning in 2012. He also stated he plans to sign the voting bill.

While stricter voting laws and abortion restrictions are not uncommon in states with Republican-controlled legislatures, Sarah Preston, policy director for ACLU-NC, says North Carolina lawmakers are taking these measures to different levels. “North Carolina is pursuing extreme versions,” Preston says. “They’ve gone beyond what other states are doing.”

However, states like Florida and Texas, where Republicans have controlled the state legislature for over a decade, have been pursuing legislation like those proposed in North Carolina for some time.

In Florida, where Republicans have controlled the state legislature for nearly a decade, voters experienced long lines and excessive wait times at polling places in November 2012, a result of early-voting restrictions put in place by Governor Rick Scott. (Early voting was restored in February.)

Two weeks ago, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a law that puts a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and requires abortion clinics to operate under the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers (a similar provision was taken out of the final version of the North Carolina abortion law).

“I can’t think of any individual policy or proposal in North Carolina that is unprecedented,” said Tom Carsey, a distinguished professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “What’s surprising is the number of things that have happened in such a short period of time.”

“Some conservatives would probably argue North Carolina is just catching up with the other states.”

MORE: Obama Returns to Tar Heel State, the One That Got Away

169 comments
tboneivd
tboneivd

The buffoons in the NC Legislature are no more or less representative of the people of NC than the Congress is representative of the people of the United States.

We had liars and political hacks in office 4 years ago, and we have pretty much the same thing now they just chose a different set of issues to sell themselves for.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

prometheuswire
prometheuswire

Amateurish reporting, you completely ignored two important facts:

1. republicans control the legislature because of gerrymandering-- Democrats received more votes, yet GOP got most of the seats.

2. Billionaire Koch & his local henchman Art Pope bought the election with millions, and are further loosening laws to fatten the wallets of Republican pols and blast anonymous political ads through the airwaves

spodso
spodso

My wife is from North Carolina. At one time I was glad we moved away from there, but maybe it's time to move back.

spodso
spodso

Who in the world is Maya Rhodan? And is Time Magazine still a Magazine?

IngridJohanson
IngridJohanson

McCrory - How can you live with yourself?  You have destroyed decades of necessary and helpful institutions

to those less fortunate.  Think twice.  You are not more fortunate because you are doing things that will

eventually unpin your despicable governance.

WHY?  Are you that greedy and that needy to satisfy your republican backers?   You will go down surely.

You will not survive.  I have faith in the good people of this state.  YOU ARE NOT ONE OF THEM.

unreconspatriot
unreconspatriot

Good for NC. If you disagree with them, move to NY or CT or VT. They will welcome you with open arms. Oh, thats right, no jobs up there. Hmmmm.

drpsyce38
drpsyce38

Thank God...someone, some state, standing up to the Gimme Nation!

just1manwithanopinion
just1manwithanopinion

"those with government-administered insurance plans will not have abortions covered, except in cases of rape, incest or if the mother’s life is in danger..." Those are the only cases in which abortion should be seen as viable anyways...or are your values that deranged? SMH...

GimpyKnee
GimpyKnee

Democracy is supposed to be about majority rule, but the GOP is making sure that they maintain power even if they're in the minority through gerrymandering.  Freedom and economic power...only for the wealthiest.

SkyMKinley
SkyMKinley

We should all be so lucky as to have our State willing to stand against the tide of special interests that have overtaken our Federal Government.

adminuser
adminuser

gee, can't wait to move to "Texas on the Atlantic".... NOT

Bananaland
Bananaland

The only thing they missed was restoring Slavery!

21stcentury
21stcentury

The governor is Art Pope's little puppet. His stooge like cohorts stand behind him in the above photo. 

900662652
900662652

I had a feeling the comments section would be a bunch of people losing their minds over the fact that people DARE having an opinion different from their own. Isn't one of the unofficial slogans of liberals "coexist" or "celebrate diversity"? I guess someone who votes republican is just too diverse. Oh and before someone jumps down my throat calling me a sheep or a republicon or whatever the cool kids use to insult republicans these days... I'm not even a republican. I just find this blatant hypocrisy entertaining. Have a good one.

FrankBlank
FrankBlank

If I were a communist, I would love this legislation.  And if any rednecks are out there (duh) you should realize that commies hate liberals and love reactionaries. Liberals flatten the contradictions.  Right-wads heighten the contradictions.  

HazeAndDrizzle
HazeAndDrizzle

Or North Carolina is falling back into the arms of the other Jim Crow states. Why to go Supremes, you will get Jim Crow back before you all retire, won't you.

FoundStar
FoundStar

Heaven to Hell...well. just look at what the racist redneck GOP has done for the citizens they represent. My goodness it seems these laughing aholes are having a great time screwing everyone but themselves. I always loved NC and her people..now i can't believe my friends live in this State that is governed by megalomaniacs, racists power mad scumbags...so so sad.

SmoothEdward1
SmoothEdward1

This fraud of a Governor said he wouldn't sign any more restrictive legislation on abortion when he was running to be elected. I hope the people of North Carolina remember this, and their legislators too. There are too many people from bluer areas of the country moving to North Carolina. The long term trend for these types of policies there are bad, and so is the future of a Republican party that is not moderate. It's a temporary blip brought about by the national temper tantrum of 2010.

HenryMajor
HenryMajor

Hate will never win. When North Carolina votes in 2016, it will be for Hillary Clinton.

drudown
drudown

The GOP cannot subvert the Bill of Rights under the auspices of "their majority rules" in the Several States such as Texas, North Carolina, et al. These liberties have been selectively incorporated via the 14th Amendment- and the Supremacy Clause works and is. 

jameslenwoodflowers
jameslenwoodflowers

Since when is saying American Law applies in American and not foreign law a bad thing?  Should I be able to go to China and when I break a law there declare that I am innocent because American law does not define my action as a crime?  How is showing an ID to vote a bad thing?  Some of the new laws passed may be less than perfect, but I have lived in several places, especially in the NorthEast, and believe me... North Carolina is a paradise compared to them.

jilli.brown
jilli.brown

The state Obama famously captured from Republicans in 2008 is about to enact a flurry of archaic laws.  We'll see how long the republican hold lasts.  It's a shame to see a state with so much promise regressing as they are.

CarolinaDannie
CarolinaDannie

North Carolina is a sad place to live now. The political climate in North Carolina is so polarizing. The radical legislative changes are heartless and coming at a time when the unemployment in this state is at a all time high. This assembly is making war on their poor, their children, their women, and even their voters. The NC assembly is also seriously considering off-shore drilling. So much for NC pristine beaches and marine life now. Who gains? The money mongers and the republican power brokers. It is really really scary in North Carolina folks, really scary.

JimSedberry
JimSedberry

Can you break down your disapproval  percentages as to black and white and areas from which polled? Can you also tell us the average age, and race, and employment of thise polled? Bet money that would explain your poll figures!!!

sltgarrison
sltgarrison

I've lived in North Carolina all my life (54 years), and I am heart-broken over what is happening in my beloved state.  In just a few short years, we've gone from being a progressive state that cared about its poor and prioritized education to a caricature of a political landscape where children, minorities and the poor will pay with marginalized lives for the ridiculous ideology of the sanctimonious, self-righteous legislators elected last year.  It will take a generation to recover from this damage, and some things can never be salvaged - the time in young children's formative years when their education is stymied because their class is too large, there are no assistants to help those with learning difficulties, there is no paper, no crayons, and no veteran teachers (because they will have all left either the field or the state).  For the record, I am a white, (former-) republican woman whose state has been hijacked, and I AM ANGRY.

smart-conservative
smart-conservative

@tboneivd  NOT TRUE, YOU DO NOT SPEAK TRUTH.   

FORTUNATELY EVERYTHING YOU HUNG YOUR HAT ON HAS NOT COME TO PASS, CONSERVATIVES WILL TURN IT AROUND AND PROVE ALL THE EVIL ONES WRONG.   YET YOU WILL STILL CRITICIZE AND ROB THE TRUTH AND TRY TO TEAR DOWN AND DESTROY.  NOTHING WILL EVER BE GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU, YET YOU ADD NOTHING AND ONLY CREATE RUIN, YOUR A DARK CAVERN WITH NO LIGHT OR GOODNESS.  

smart-conservative
smart-conservative

the best place for your thoughts and then yourself

www.toilets.com

bigrhp444
bigrhp444

@unreconspatriot  Just so you'll know, unemployment is at 8.8% in NC.  In NY it's 7.5; CT 8.1 and VT 4.4.  The average wages in those 3 states are also higher than in NC.

tboneivd
tboneivd

@drpsyce38 Yep. We REALLY showed 'em. Now thanks to the buffoons in Raleigh my federal tax dollars go to assist unemployed people in every state of the Union--except the one I live in.

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits forced labor, contains a caveat: «Slavery and the forcible compulsion to work, except for punishment for a crime properly convicted, shall not exist within the United States». Thus, in U.S. prisons slavery is legal.

Number of inmates in the United States increased by comparison with 1972 in 7,6 times In 1972 the U.S. had less than 300 thousand prisoners. In 1990 it was 1 million. Today the United States, where there are more than 2.3 million inmates, tops the list of countries by number of people in custody. This is about 25% of all those serving time in the world (the U.S. share of world population is 5%). The figure of 754 prisoners per 100 thousand of population makes the United States the world leader in the ratio of the number of prisoners to total population. As the American specialist publication «California Prison Focus» said, in the history of mankind there has never before been a society which held so many of its own people in jail. More people are imprisoned In the U.S. than in any other country - half a million more than in China, even though the population of China is five times more than that of the United States. The Soviet Gulag system of the 1930`s was on a much smaller scale than is the American gulag at the beginning of the XXI century.  

http://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2012/11/24/the-american-gulag-as-the-latest-form-of-capitalism-ii.html

smart-conservative
smart-conservative

@21stcentury he is an awesome hero.  

sadly the evil liberals hate it when the conservatives win anything and hate them to use smart fair tactics, they have used in illegal fashion for decades.  art pope did nothing but inform voters of the causes and outcomes of liberalism and the democratic way, THE PEOPLE OF NC DECIDED WITH THEIR VOTES.  all the elections were won fairly, unlike the elections of your leader obama.  if you want to focus on wrong doings do not use this as an example just because it does not help your evil ugly cause, you look like a demon.  

go instead to your own party, that is where all the evil resides.  accuse your own liberal leaders they are truly evil to the core.  yet you do not do that, you come here and try to take down the good and innocent and never say anything about the evil that resides in you and the libs you voted for.   that speaks volumes about you and liberals but we expect no less, that is who you are, satan's children. 

adminuser
adminuser

@900662652 you're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. I'm sure this is going not over well in Research Triangle & other areas. 

If you want to create a diverse economy, you don't alienate half your constituency.

Then again, if you want ignorant rednecks, this oughta do it.

(I'm originally from Richmond, VA - I know of what I speak)

smart-conservative
smart-conservative

@FrankBlank COMMUNISM IS THE OTHER 49 STATES IN THE USA.  NC IS ENDING THE COMMIE STATE.  LETS HOPE ART POPE DOES THIS IN OTHER PLACES.

HazeAndDrizzle
HazeAndDrizzle

@HenryMajor Oh maybe. The popular vote does count for much when huge portions of the population is not allowed to vote.

PrincessBride
PrincessBride

@jameslenwoodflowersAnd just where in NC does Shari'a law apply, that there needs to be a ban against it?  Have you ever heard of a criminal getting off because they claimed to follow a different legal system?  If Republicans favor smaller government, passing laws against things that don't even exist is not the greatest example.  But then again, this is the same legislature that had a representative propose making Christianity the state religion, which is against the United States Constitution!  I too came from the NorthEast, and have enjoyed many good years in NC, but I am now appalled at where the state is headed, especially with regard to education.

HazeAndDrizzle
HazeAndDrizzle

@jameslenwoodflowers Opposing non-existent Sharia law in the US is as phony a problem as voter fraud. Wait, I mean motorcycles should not be allowed to vote and neither should vaginas, especially young ones. Way to go North Carolina. Freedom of choice is evil, Conservatives must never allow really freedom: not freedom of personal control over your life, the State owns you, breeds you and decides if you live or die, you can't vote either.

markb3699
markb3699

@jameslenwoodflowers If you're talking about the Sharia law ban, the point is that it's a stupid law. The U.S. is never going to favor Sharia law and spending tax money to enact a ban is a waste of money and political grandstanding plain and simple.

HazeAndDrizzle
HazeAndDrizzle

@CarolinaDannie This is why Karl Marx noted religion to be the opiate of the people. That much Christianity lowers collective IQ by 40 points.

manlyman
manlyman

I bet a dollar to a donut the population goes up, and unemployment goes down. Those residents who don't like it can always move to Detroit.

smart-conservative
smart-conservative

@tboneivd @drpsyce38 

you might to well to enlighten yourself... the unemployed are paid by unemployment insurance.  this ins is paid for by the employed person while on the job, who when unemployed can collect.  that is why it is called unemployment ins., its what good hard working conservative use when they are out of work and they and their employers paid for it.  it is not to be confused with welfare,  a program which requires nothing from the recipient to collect........... its for users takers and irresponsible, and its was liberals use.   so no your tax dollars are not going any to pay for the unemployed.... 70% of all taxes collected from the good hard working americans go to welfare payments for liberals who use and take.  (the war funds are only 16% lol, uninformed libs never complain about the 70% and growing welfare state they have created).  and finally, your a liberal.............YOU DO NOT PAY ANY TAXES.  LIBERALS NEVER DO, YOUR PART OF THE 50% OF AMERICANS WHO PAYS ZERO, BUT YOU PORTRAY YOURSELF AS BEING SOME BIG TAX PAYER, TO PROVE A POINT AND MISLEAD PEOPLE WITH LIES.  don't you evil libs get tired of doing everything wrong with satan at your side? 

smart-conservative
smart-conservative

@Sibir_Russia  you can see what liberalism (democrats) and aliens from other countries caused.   thanks for the evil hippies and their movements lawlessness exploded.

joev4012
joev4012

@Sibir_RussiaLOL, sure we have more prisoners than the Commie countries because they KILL thier law breakers rather than jail them. 


During the Russian Revolution your hero's KILLED OVER 17 MILLION of their own citizens.

900662652
900662652

I didn't make my own facts in my post. In fact, it was all my opinion.

HenryMajor
HenryMajor

@HazeAndDrizzle @HenryMajor When the Republican fools tried to suppress the vote in 2012, it just got people's dander up and the Black vote percentage actually exceeded the White vote for the first in history. 

AndrewK777
AndrewK777

@manlyman Really? Poor people with family ties to NC are going to somehow find the money to move away from their family history? What brilliant idea! If you're a republicant rube.

FrankBlank
FrankBlank

@manlyman = LOL.      So what particlular law or laws in this mess of oppression will bring down unemployment?

drudown
drudown

@manlyman 

I would "bet" that you support lobbyists more than ordinary Americans, programs that help companies over people and seem to think your caustic, dismissive comments matter to people that articulate reasonable criticism of GOP corruption as if, in the end, there is not a better solution to those that "don't like it", i.e., vote the GOP out.

markb3699
markb3699

@manlyman Why? Because uneducated morons will move there enmasse? Your tough talk is all well and good, but there are other people on the planet who disagree with you.