Reactions to the so-called repeal of HB2 show one reason why Democrats are already in trouble for the 2018 and 2020 elections. They had hoped this year would be a time of unity to mobilize opposition to the “mis-administration” of the other party in Washington and the state legislature.
Instead of strengthening their party and bringing it together for successfully ridding the state of much of the damage from HB2, the repeal has brought about more disappointment and disunity. Instead of unifying and celebrating the achievement of their party’s leader, Gov. Roy Cooper, Democrats have broken into angry factions.
Many of the state’s more important and influential figures have attacked the governor for “selling out” by accepting a compromise, which is, so they say, worse than HB2 itself.
Mark Joseph Stern, writing for Slate, noted, “As soon as the ‘compromise’ bill was revealed, however, LGBTQ groups lined up against it, arguing, in essence, that the cure would be worse than the disease. They are absolutely correct. The measure, HB142, would be an unmitigated disaster for LGBTQ rights. It substitutes the old anti-trans policy for new, equally cruel one — and prevents cities from protecting their own LGBTQ residents. This bill is not a compromise. It is a capitulation.”
The editorial board of The Charlotte Observer joined the chorus criticizing Cooper, calling his actions “a betrayal of the promises the governor made to the LGBT community.”
Continuing its harsh attack, the Observer wrote, “This was the first real test of leadership for Gov. Cooper, a Democrat, and he failed spectacularly by inexplicably discarding his earlier promise not to accept any deal that left people vulnerable to discrimination.”
Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, wrote, “Bitterly disappointed in a man I truly believed was the future of North Carolina.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, wrote that while Cooper was taking credit for HB2’s repeal, “He did no such thing. Instead he signed a new version of HB2 and betrayed [his] campaign promise.”
One radio caller, angry with Cooper and the compromise, said she would rather carry the burden of HB2 for a lifetime than accept a compromise or anything other than the law’s unconditional repeal.
At least this caller recognized the choices that were then available to Cooper:
1. Negotiate a compromise with the legislators who passed HB2 in the first place, who still supported it, and who still had control of the legislature; or
2. Live with HB2 indefinitely, at least until, when and if, the political situation in North Carolina changes.
Most Republicans were not eager to repeal HB2. Lt. Gov. Dan Forrest defended it and opposed the compromise: “I’m proud of the stance we’ve taken. I’m proud of the work we did to protect women and kids in bathrooms. I’m proud of the work we did to uphold the Constitution. I think that the only thing that was wrong with HB2 was the false narrative and the negative narrative from the left, from the media, from the leftist groups out there who were coming against North Carolina and boycotting North Carolina.”
Forrest’s comments are a reminder that legislative supporters of a full repeal were a minority against a steadfast majority that was unwilling to support and vote for an unconditional appeal.
To get HB2 repealed, there had to be a compromise.
It is certainly fair to criticize the compromise and work for an expansion of protections for gay and transgender rights.
But now is not the time to turn on Cooper just because he did not get it all.
There will be other chances, after elections in coming years. But Democrats who are trashing Cooper and those who supported the compromise are jeopardizing their party’s unity and its chances to do well in those upcoming elections.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.