Some days the miasma of North Carolina politics makes me want to blow shit up. Today is one of those days, and what I want to blow up is the whole god-damned system. And I mean god-damned in the most literal sense of the word. Because if there is a god, she is most certainly pissed off at how We the People and our elected officials here in North Carolina are behaving.
Today's deep depression got started by this editorial in the News and Observer.
Tucked into this year's ethics law changes was language transferring that approval power to the speaker of the House, currently Democrat Jim Black of Matthews, and the president pro tem of the Senate, who for several years has been Dare County's Marc Basnight, also a Democrat. That arrangement holds the potential for a glaring conflict of interest regardless of who holds the post.
The editorial is a good one, though it goes not nearly far enough. It was written in response to a decision by the white boys in Raleigh to fund Richard Morgan's legal bills using taxpayer money. I'm not going to get into all the sleazy details, but you should read them for yourself. It is a disgusting story of a privileged white oligarchy, fat pigs slopping at the public trough, while hundreds of thousands of families can't afford to put food on their tables and clothes on their children.
How did we sink to such a miserable level of indecency and dishonor? How have we allowed the oily stench of money to flow uninterrupted among an all-powerful political aristocracy? How can we all just go about our daily business without retching with disgust at a few entrenched good-old-boys running our government like it's their own little playground? And how in god's name could the people of Mecklenburg County elect Black to the legislature again after all we know about him?
I understand that Jim Black has done many good things for our state. The legacy of his good work is long and commendable. But that was then. Now he is a pariah, tainted by a calamitous series of bad judgments, greed, and worse. But he is not the only problem. The power in our state is concentrated in the hands of a dangerous few - and We the People are not even at the damn table.
Some Democrats in Raleigh have been behaving like Republicans do in Washington, but on a less offensive scale. And before you jump all over me for that, let me add that if Republicans were in charge in North Carolina, their offenses would make Democrats look like angels. Because no matter how much back-room dealing the Democrats do, at least they do their dealing for mostly honorable policies. If Republicans were running the show, their slimy trail would lead straight back to people like Art Pope who would use the influence of money to systematically dismantle public policies, privatize anything that moves, and further enrich the power elite. I completely understand all of this, and yet I can't help ask:
Is this really the best we can do?
We won't be able to influence who represents us in Raleigh for another two years. But we can have an impact on how they represent us right now. We need to be all over the upcoming legislative session, all day every day. We need to coax, cajole, pat on the back, kick in the ass, ridicule, rant, and raise our voices for transparency, integrity and excellence. When your local representative votes to enable business as usual, you need to slam them hard and publicly, no matter what party they're in.
The first big test will be the election of a new Speaker of the House, and there are big risks. On one hand, we may see Jim Black rise from the ashes to taint whatever small integrity is present in our system. That would be disastrous. On the other hand, the back-room dealing and coalition-building could lead to the election of an extreme reactionary who would be offensive to anything remotely resembling progressive politics.
I call on the women in the House, the Black Caucus, the progressives, and the independent-minded to put progress ahead of politics and choose a leader who will restore integrity to the office.
I call on all the state's newspapers to editorialize for decency and democracy.
I call on BlueNC readers to pay very close attention to the Speaker vote and to the entire legislative session. All we have are our voices, and we must raise holy hell at any sign of back-sliding and sleaze.
I call on progressive Democratic legislators to put a stop to business as usual. I call on you to speak out publicly for the common good and for transparency in government. I call on you to stop hiding behind the threats of entrenched power and money and raise your voices in favor of excellence at all levels of public service.
I call on elected officials to take a stand for We the People instead of Them the Powerful.
We are watching.