Update: More from the N&O, Yahoo Sports and the Charlotte Observer..
To me, there are three prisms through which to interpret N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory’s angry responses to HB2: personal, political and policy. (Go to the links to read his responses. Here is a description what HB2 is.)
Personal: Perhaps he truly feels strongly that women and children are in danger of assault if transgender people are permitted to use the bathrooms of their gender ID. That might explain why he has become the public face of the law. It would also explain the aggressiveness with which he’s defended it. (There is no evidence that the danger is real or, at least, worth the controversy and polarization the law has generated.)
Political: McCrory is in a competitive battle to win re-election. He needs to fire up the base to turn out to vote, particularly at a time when angst over the GOP’s presidential nominee may have adverse effects on down-ticket races such as McCrory’s. In that case, HB2 comes at an opportune time; polling suggests it could play well with his base.
McCrory does a good job keeping the focus on the bathroom part of the law, and skirting any discussion of the other parts, limiting cities from enacting anti-discrimination policies or establishing minimum wage levels. (I wish reporters would push him harder to defend those portions of the law.)
Even if McCrory wanted to repeal the law, backpedaling would make him look weak to the base. Besides, it’s doubtful that he would be able to get any further changes in the current law through the legislature. The leaders of the House and Senate — Rep. Tim Moore and Sen. Phil Berger — have not shown any sign that they intend to budge.
And statesmanship — bringing groups together to come up with a consensus that satisfies all parties — is not a strength he’s exhibited so far.
So, politically, he’s in a bit of a box. He doesn’t have enough power to bend the legislature to his will, and his best opportunity to make the problem go away — vetoing the bill — disappeared months ago when he quickly signed it.
Policy: I haven’t read or heard any convincing argument that HB2 is good for the state. North Carolina’s reputation has suffered on a national stage. Musicians are boycotting the state. Corporations aren’t expanding here. Cities and states have banned employee travel to the state. Conventions and events have been canceled. Now, with the NBA’s moving of the all-star game, the stakes are even higher. Millions of dollars in tax revenues and business dividends have been lost.
Does this law protect citizens? No. There’s no enforcement provision, and assaulting people in bathrooms or elsewhere was already illegal. Does this law make the state stronger? No. If part of the job of government is to bring jobs and good will to the state, the passage of HB2 is a big failure.
HB2 has also become Gov. McCrory’s legacy. As much as he wants to tout the Carolina Comeback, it’s being lost in the national discussion over “the bathroom bill.” That must grate on him. Perhaps his thin-skinned response to a political opponent is evidence.
Can he extricate himself and still look good? Maybe.
Today, Timothy Egan of the New York Times writing about Donald Trump included this section:
“President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican, is a good example. Shortly before the crisis in Little Rock, Eisenhower said that he could not imagine using federal troops to enforce a desegregation order. Two months later, he reversed his position. In an address to the nation, which his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, helped draft, the president said it was “difficult to exaggerate the harm that is being done to the prestige and influence, and indeed to the safety, of our nation and the world” by the racial unrest.
“Federal troops would do more than bring law and order to Little Rock and enable African-American students to attend Central High School, Eisenhower said. Resolving the crisis would remove ‘a blot upon the fair name and high honor of our nation in the world,’ and would restore the image of American democracy.”
Can Pat McCrory take the action necessary to remove the “blot upon the fair name and high honor of our” state? Many of us wish he’d try harder.