Today’s headlines paint a dismal picture of American politics. Divisions are apparent across the country, including here in North Carolina. But candidly, for those of us who truly care about preserving civil liberties, that response is justified. Partisan officials across the country, particularly in Texas, are driving an anti-trans, anti-choice, and anti-education agenda that only services to drive us further apart.
We’re of course no strangers to the consequences of restrictive policies that ignore basic human dignity here in North Carolina. The scars of HB2 live on in communities across our state.
And as the national discourse turns to these issues once again, it can be difficult to find bright points – those stories which remind us that there are politicians out there doing good policy work to bring positive change to our friends, family, and neighbors. But here in North Carolina, we are lucky to be reminded of the dedicated work being done by the state’s more level-headed leaders, and we are encouraged by the leadership we have seen from them as they support pragmatic policies in these times.
Despite the headlines of Republican policies that are targeting children, our education system, and our social standards for how we treat one another, we can remain focused on the task at hand. We must avoid giving an ounce of credibility to the machine of harmful and problematic policy that has been churning in Texas, led by AG Ken Paxton who has supported policies ranging from anti-transgender bills to legislation that restricts ballot access.
And the state’s posture on reproductive health has been particularly concerning. Just one year ago, Paxton celebrated when the State Supreme Court struck down a standard abortion procedure, restricting the rights of women across the state through claims of voicing concern for the unborn. His efforts to tear down pillars of reproductive health are a troubling example of a policy agenda that is exclusive, biased, and outright dangerous.
Democrats must be careful to distinguish themselves from these politicians who create legislation with nothing more than headlines and discord in mind. That’s why I encourage Attorney General Stein and other state leaders, who often collaborate with their counterparts across the country, to consider the message that collaboration would send at this moment in history.
An upcoming conference of Attorneys General in Texas next week, led and hosted by AG Paxton, is the perfect example of an opportunity that might be worth skipping. It would be difficult to stand next to officials like Paxton who are more concerned with virtue signaling and political gain than creating policies that benefit everyday people.
In a year that is so critical for protecting our majority in Congress and making gains at the local level, and as we continue to see Republicans at all levels push problematic and disastrous policy, we are counting on our party leaders to showcase more than ever our inclusive, pragmatic, and progressive goals. If we don’t stand up to elected officials who use their power to go after something as fundamental as a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, then we are complicit in allowing this behavior to continue.
I don’t mean to say that bipartisanship should be ignored. Rather, we should be promoting bipartisanship when it is a celebration of policies that are reasonable and beneficial to our communities. But many would rightfully argue that the situation in Texas, driven by Ken Paxton, has gone too far.
My hope is that Attorney General Stein will give no credibility to Paxton’s policies, or the gathering of AG’s he will almost surely use to validate his agenda. We should stand firm in our convictions, and that means standing up to politicians who are fighting every day against the rights of vulnerable communities.