Since moving to Charlotte three years ago, my focus admittedly hasn’t been on local politics. As a transplant who wasn’t sure how long our stay would be in our new state, I kept following our home state’s politics and, aside from voting, kept just one ear in North Carolina.
Neither one of my state reps—North Carolina General Assembly Senator (Jeff Tarte-District 41) nor House Rep (John Bradford-District 98)— answers his phone or emails, so I figured my time was better spent harassing the North Carolina U.S. Senators. Besides, even though Tarte and Bradford are both Republicans, neighbors — and Bradford himself — assured me that they were “moderates.”
That’s, of course, a load of hog feces, which by the way, the NC GOP thinks is just dandy to spray on people’s homes, kind of a metaphor for how they feel about anyone who’s not a rich, white, cisgender male, or a corporation.
So when Tarte held a town hall Friday in Cornelius, I hightailed it 30 minutes up I-77 from Charlotte to hear all about his “moderate” ways. (For some reason—it’s the darnedist thing, really—Tarte’s district spans from the tiptop of Mecklenburg County all the way down to the far Southeast, with a narrow sliver snaking its way across the city to connect the two areas.)
From now on, I don’t care if you think HB2 was “stupid,” as Tarte described it at the town hall Friday, and I don’t care how much hand-wringing you do over the lack of funds for education because we have so, so little money to spread around all of these buckets that Tarte kept bringing up. Any legislator who tows the party line for the North Carolina GOP is not a moderate. You sir, are a menace to democracy itself.
No decent person talks the way he did about African-Americans, immigrants, voter-suppression and even at-risk 4 year olds.
After explaining how important Pre-K education is to determining one’s success later in life, he shrugged his shoulders when asked why the Senate’s budget only funds half of the kids on the Pre-K waitlist. Simply not enough money to fill that bucket, he said. So what about that $1 billion tax cut to corporations? Shrugging his shoulders, he replied something to the effect of, you Democrats have a difference in philosophy.
He defended every single, underhanded, partisan, spiteful deed the NC GOP has done. He admonished an African-American woman for suggesting that it’s a good thing to have a diverse set of judges in the state, willfully ignoring the past few centuries of our history. Then he further turned into everyone’s racist uncle, railing against immigrants, complaining that they need to come legally, ignoring the fact that immigration laws have vastly changed from the days of Ellis Island, making it nearly impossible for poor people to immigrate here legally in search of a better life.
He refused to give straight answers to questions and grew visibly frustrated that his constituents actually wanted to, gasp, ask questions of their representative during the 90 minutes he’s available to them, rather than look at the 50 slides his staff had prepared.
This isn’t a difference in philosophy. This is an attack on our schools, our environment, our young people’s right to the same opportunities, regardless of race, socioeconomic status or country of origin. And everyone’s right to be represented by someone who must answer to his or her constituents.
We’ve all heard that North Carolina is no longer considered a democracy, according to one report, for all of these reasons. The joke of a representative this “democracy” has given to me is further proof. He doesn’t represent my interests, nor does he want to listen to what those are. And given the way my district is gerrymandered, he doesn’t have to.
And yet—I looked around at the people in the room, 95 percent of whom were women. Most with notebooks and pens, with facts at the ready, at least two of whom are running for local offices for the first time in November. Most seemed to be able to run circles around this man, much like we saw with this woman, and like we continue to see with intelligent, prepared, educated women in recent months.
We’ll know in a few years whether the resistance movement, overwhelmingly led by women, will stick. But the thing is, the NC GOP, as well as the current GOP Congress and Trump administration, are so far away from what the majority of the country wants, the idea of any of them being a moderate influence is a joke. After this town hall, it’s never been clearer that it’s up to each of us, including me, to keep not one, but two, ears—and both eyes—on all of our lovely leaders’ actions. And to vote them out the first chance we get.