North Carolina State Senator Thom Goolsby has penned an op-ed piece in Chatham Journal over the weekend, which is published in Pittsboro in Chatham County, NC, more than 150 miles away from his own district. The topic of his op-ed is "Moral Monday" demonstrations that started mid-April with North Carolina's NAACP, led by the Rev. William Barber against what it sees as an assault on the poor and the weak. The movement has only grown in number from just handfuls of participants at the beginning to the estimated 1,000-1,600 of all ages and colors participating and 151 being arrested last Monday, June 3, 2013.
The demonstrations are a response to the Republican-led changes to state law. With everything firmly in the Republican hands since the 2012 elections, there has been a torrent of bills unleashed on North Carolina citizens by the Republican legislators that are decidedly aimed at suppressing laws that were passed by former Democratic administrations and scaling down the Democratic influence. Governor Pat McCrory quickly refused to implement the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. He was also quick to renew unemployment benefits despite the fact that North Carolina has the fifth highest unemployment rate in the country. He refused to expand Medicaid to 500,000 poor North Carolinians even though the money would have come from the federal government. He quickly slashed funding for education at all levels, with no pay increase for all state employees while giving his cabinet members an 11 percent raise.
McCrory also signed into legislation laws that dismantled the coastal environment regulations. He was also quick to sign voter ID bills into law, which, when done in a former Confederate state, arouses suspicion of voter suppression. In this particular case most notably, two bills were proposed: one requiring a photo ID and the other that eliminated dependent tax deduction for parents if a college-age child votes where he or she goes to college. The latter bill was seen by many to be a poll tax, too reminiscent of the Jim Crow days.
Also, the legislature stopped bothering with vote counts when bills didn't pass turning instead to voice vote. The Republican legislature also successfully repealed the Racial Justice Act on June 5, which passed years ago in order to grant those who are on death row a chance to plead racial bias during the prosecutorial or jury process. The RCA was a particularly thorny issue in Thom Goolsby's eye prompting him to state in a YouTube video that there simply cannot be any claim to racial injustice because because the DAs are not racists and in a lot of these cases both the perpetrators and victims were black. The repeal of many other laws passed by Democrats are sure to follow.
The latest from Thom Goolsby regarding Moral Monday demonstrations stands out because it reads more like a rant from a right wing nut rather than an elected official. It "looks more like the product of an internet troll, Goolsby dropped all dignity and pretense, then took a nose dive into the gutter that makes the career of Don Rickles seem like a life-long tour of love and joy" according to Camel City Dispatch, an internet newspaper. In the op-ed Goolsby has a name for everything and everyone. He begins by calling the demonstration "a circus... complete with clowns, a carnival barker and a sideshow." In Goolsby's own words, "[t]he "Reverend" Barber was decked out like a prelate of the Church of Rome (no insult is meant to Catholics), complete with stole and cassock." As if that wasn't enough, Goolsby goes on to call the demonstrators "mostly white, angry, aged former hippies" when in fact it included people of all ages and colors. To cap it all, he dubs "Moral Monday" "Moron Monday".
After characterizing the 140 years of Democratic rule in North Carolina as disastrous in all regards, Goolsby says the following of the work of the Republicans:
Once ensconced in power, the pro-growth, commonsense Republicans went to work like the business people they were. Government waste was cut, a billion-dollar tax cut was enacted and the budget was balanced. The state's retirement plan was fully funded and the state health plan was made solvent. A responsible repayment schedule was arranged with the federal government to pay off the unemployment debt in record time. In other words, the sinking ship of this state was righted.
While Goolsby and his Repulibcan gang sound like the saviors of sinking ship here, others have noted that actually the state legislature and the governor are "fixing" things that are not broken. NC Justice Center's Policy Watch has warned that
legislative leaders not only want to slash spending on vital investments in education from Pre-K to universities and turn down billions in federal money to expand health care and update the state Medicaid system, they are determined to wipe out successful economic development efforts too if they don't fit under their far-right ideological umbrella.
Almost with a snicker, Goolsby goes on to state that "the gathering was supposed to influence legislators. However, no one thought to bring out any senate or house member from either party." However, when the pre-determined participants walked into the state capitol building, they were told to disperse or face arrest. Not surprisingly, all 151 were arrested and transported to jail and no one legislator came out to see what was going on in the rotunda. Goolsby himself was seen watching the scene from the upper level of the rotunda, so at least the demonstrators managed to bring one legislator out contrary to his assertion.
In the comments on his official Facebook page, most of which have now been deleted, he continued the namecalling. He called those who wrote opposing views on the page "liberal cry babies," "angry liberals" and condescendingly asserts that the "taxpayers and voters will be at work" on Mondays.
The reaction from the press has been swift. Daily Kos has published a piece on June 10th where the highlighted difference in word choice between Goolsby himself ("state senator") and the Rev. Barber (the "Reverend" and "carnival barker") was duly noted. And I may also add, between the "State Senator" and the demonstrators whom Goolsby calls "morons", "old hippies have found a new hobby and have once again fallen in love with the sound of their own voices". And as aforementioned, Winston-Salem's Camel City Dispatch has published an opinion piece where the editors correctly point out that Goolsby has sunk to the new low of schoolyard bullying tactics.
Shame on you, Mr. Goolsby! Is that what you are resorting to? Schoolyard bullying tactics and name calling? Indeed, it may be you who doesn't get it. I suppose that you believe that characterizing your constituents as a "circus" comprised of "white, aging hippies" will help you get re-elected? And what's with publishing the piece 162 miles away from your district in a newspaper with a decidedly partisan agenda? What do you have to hide and who do you think you represent?
As Melissa Harris-Perry points out, this may have just begun. And I would like to say that Goolsby's condescending, petulant, smarmy piece of an opinion is sure to be fuel to the movement.