As 2016 is now history, there is perhaps no better poster child for how totally terrible last year was politically than North Carolina.
As you may remember, Republicans passed HB2, a bill that outlawed protections for LGBT people across the state and also went out of its way to tell trans people that they weren’t welcome in public restrooms.
When Gov. Pat McCrory (R-Defeated) signed the bill, he didn’t realize he was also signing his own pink slip. But in a very close race for governor, Democrat Roy Cooper, who refused to support HB2 as attorney general, beat McCrory — a small bright spot in an otherwise disastrous election! McCrory didn’t think so, however, and fought the election results, lie-crying about voter fraud.
McCrory’s defeat was due in large part to the utter economic clusterfuck HB2 caused the state. For some strange reason, companies, sports ball organizations and people who have any sense of decency thought that flagrantly endorsing and celebrating discrimination against LGBT people was something they could just not get behind. The NCAA, for example, yanked its championship games from the state, which pissed a lot of people off.
And so, Republicans were freaking out that Cooper won, so much so that they’ve rushed through a bunch of bills limiting the governor’s power because they love democracy so much. Not only that, but so sad was the GOP about McCrory’s defeat that they briefly tossed around the idea of giving him health care for life as a consolation prize (that is not a joke).
But somehow, in all of this, HB2 was supposed to be repealed. Because the Republicans said that if the city of Charlotte, which caused all of this trouble in the first place, would repeal its pro-LGBT ordinance, they would repeal HB2! And surely they should be taken at their word, right? So Charlotte did! And the Republicans did NOT.
“HB2 is precisely why North Carolinians went to the polls and ousted Gov. McCrory last month,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “It’s time to chart a new course guided by the state’s values of dignity and respect, not discrimination and hate — and to ensure nondiscrimination protections exist in cities, towns and across the state of North Carolina.”
Alas, HB2 was not repealed and is still on the books in North Carolina.
Add all of this to the fact that the state’s voting districts were found to be totally racist and intended to keep Republicans in power, plus the increasingly popular GOP pastime of voter suppression, and the Electoral Integrity Project has declared that North Carolina isn’t even a functioning democracy! Congratulations, North Carolina! You did it!
Needless to say, what’s happening in North Carolina is not encouraging if you’re the democracy-loving type. But it’s a glimpse into what happens when politicians get drunk with power and care very little about preserving democratic norms. Not that we have anything to worry about in that regard from a Trump administration, right?
Just kidding. We are doomed.
Just kidding again. We are NOT doomed. But progressives have a lot of work to do in 2017 and beyond. Things are going to get uglier. But throwing your hands up and saying “F-this” is not an option.
Stay engaged even when it hurts (and it WILL hurt at times). Get involved with organizations that are doing work you care about. The ACLU, Lambda Legal, Planned Parenthood, NAACP, People for the American Way, to name a few, could use your time and dollars. Call and keep calling your representatives to hold them accountable. Find a candidate you believe in and work for their campaign. Donate your time to your local Democratic Party. And vote. For the love of God and all things holy, VOTE.
D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.