Purple No More

2 minute read
Maya Rhodan

Four years ago, liberals thought that North Carolina was in transition, a red state slowly turning blue in President Obama’s “new America.” But Obama lost the state in 2012 to Mitt Romney. And this year, in a single legislative session, the Tar Heel State left no doubt about its new tilt to the right.

Since February, the governor has signed nearly 300 bills from the Republican-controlled legislature into law that have, among other things, blocked an expansion of Medicaid enabled by Obama’s Affordable Care Act, reduced access to federal unemployment benefits, cut the corporate tax rate, trimmed public-education funding, allowed concealed weapons in bars and restaurants, proposed a ban on Islamic Shari’a, enacted voter-identification laws and restricted access to abortion.

“We’ve had more reform in this state government in the past six months than we’ve seen in the past 30 years,” said Governor Pat McCrory, the first Republican to hold the office in two decades.

The sweeping voting measure, which requires photo ID at the polls and curbs same-day registration, is the most stringent ballot legislation passed by a Southern state since the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in June. Bickering over who can vote is also a sign of how closely fought the state will be in future presidential elections. The abortion bill, meanwhile, bans publicly funded health insurance from covering most abortions. The measure, which McCrory signed into law July 29, was tacked onto a motorcycle-safety bill to speed its passage.

The left has been channeling its opposition through weekly Moral Monday demonstrations at the capital in Raleigh. Since the protests began on April 29, hundreds of participants have been arrested. The campaign garnered national attention, but it did not stop McCrory’s agenda. Florida and Texas, where Republicans have controlled state government for over a decade, have been pursuing similar legislation for years.

“I can’t think of any individual policy or proposal in North Carolina that is unprecedented,” says Tom Carsey, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Some conservatives would probably argue North Carolina is just catching up.”

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