After 90 days, McCrory fails to lead, say critics
“…[O]ur goal was not to just become Governor and get elected to this great office, our goal was to be Governor, to lead—to lead and that’s what we plan to do…”- Pat McCrory after winning Nov. 6, 2012
After over 90 days in office, is Gov. Pat McCrory a leader who is skilled at imposing his moral will on the state’s body politic, or is he a behind-the-scenes manager who abhors political conflict if it threatens his ultimate agenda, even at the risk of being perceived as weak and unprincipled?
Overall, observers say the jury is still out on exactly what kind of governor Patrick McCrory will turn out to be.
But if his first 90 days in office are any indication, North Carolina’s first Republican governor in over 20 years is turning out to be more of an enthusiastic “Mr. Fix-It” man who loves redesigning government for a “better” North Carolina, but would prefer to leave the mantle of social policy leadership to the hard chargers of his Republican Party, whose political ambitions and recent legislative embarrassments have already made McCrory’s job harder.
“I have tried to stay out of the minutia of issues that probably won’t see the light of day, except in the media,” McCrory told WRAL-TV during an interview taped this week. The governor was specifically referring to the national media firestorm last week over bills filed in the GOP-controlled legislature that sought to establish a state religion, and also lengthen the time it takes to get a divorce to two years with counseling.
The office of an embarrassed House Speaker Thom Tillis announced that the state religion was dead and will not reach the floor.
McCrory told WRAL-TV that if he had said anything publicly about either bill, he would have made the national ridicule even worse.
“At times when I interfere, it raises the profile even more and causes more long-term issues,” McCrory said. “That’s why you don’t see me get involved in every single debate.”
The governor said he prefers to keep his eyes on the prizes of improving the state’s economy and job picture, education reform, and fixing Medicaid. He’s already proposed overhauling Medicaid by turning it over to private companies to manage, and McCrory has proposed taking job creation initiatives from the Commerce Dept. and giving it to private nonprofits, promising that doing so will rev up employment in the state.
The question is how much of this will McCrory’s Republican colleagues in the Legislature, who promise to at least “look” at his proposals, buy into, especially if they have to fund them? While ignoring McCrory couldn’t necessarily hurt GOP leadership in the state House and Senate, it wouldn’t necessarily them to help them to look as if they’re taking advantage of McCrory’s perceived lack of gravitas when it comes to challenging them.
On his budget, while it has gotten some praise for not being as conservative as expected, it does cut over $130 million from the UNC System, and $112 million from public education to fund second and third year teaching assistants.
And it doesn’t stop there.
The [governor’s budget] proposal also represents a shift away from economic development investments targeted at low-income, distressed populations and toward more broad-based economic development efforts focused on attracting businesses,” says a new report from the NC Budget and Tax Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit Raleigh-based group. “This move often leaves distressed communities behind, the report said.”
In the African-American community, McCrory’s support for stopping the extension of Medicare to 500,000 more applicants, and slashing unemployment benefits to the jobless as he came into office, has already soured whatever promise the new Republican had hopes for.
Add to that McCrory’s holding firm on his support for GOP efforts to pass a voter photo ID bill in the General Assembly (he told the NC Legislative Black Caucus (NCLBC) Tuesday in a closed door session that he will sign the measure, even though it hasn’t even been debated yet), and a budget that cuts local school system budgets, and ultimately teaching assistant jobs, and there seems to be little that the governor and black leaders will be smiling in front of cameras together over.
“We’ve already seen the systematic failure of curbing early voting in other battleground states, why then would we immolate such failures for our own voters?” Rep. Alma Adams [D-Guiford], member of the NCLBC, rhetorically asked reporters at NC Democratic party headquarters Monday. “We already know that Florida election officials have called limiting early voting a ‘nightmare,’ well, the nightmare has come to Jones Street. If it’s a fight Republicans want, to limit the freedom to vote, it’s a fight they’re going to get.”
The NCNAACP has also called on Gov. McCrory to not follow in the footsteps of another notorious Southern governor of history, George Wallace of Alabama, who did nothing during the 1960s to stop segregation. The civil rights group was outraged when McCrory held a swearing-in ceremony on the Old State Capitol in the same room where a relic Confederate battle flag was in full display.
That flag, a symbol to many of old Southern white racism, was subsequently removed.
The state Democratic Party has been paying attention to Gov. McCrory’s first ninety days in office, and while it comes as no surprise that Democratic leaders could find little to praise the rookie Republican governor for, they aren’t far off the mark to citing McCrory for falling considerably short of his promise to boldly pave the way.
“It’s evident that our Governor wants to have it both ways, will he lead or won’t he?” charged NC Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller Wednesday. “North Carolinians don’t need a Governor who picks and chooses when it’s convenient to stand up for them. Real leaders don’t get the luxury of speaking out of both sides of their mouth or staying silent in the face of an onslaught on justice. It’s sad that our Governor wouldn’t intercede to spare North Carolina the national embarrassment the legislature caused us last week, but finds it appropriate to endorse an unnecessary voter ID proposal that only grows government and infringes on North Carolinians right to vote.”
On Monday, Voller called on McCrory to, “…to rein in this radical, reactionary state legislature.”