High Ground or High Horses

Published June 13, 2013

By Tom Campbell

by Tom Campbell

I went to this week’s Moral Monday protest to learn what all the rancor is about and gained some insights from the experience.

I didn’t find a bunch of lefty loonies, morons or outsiders. Because of tornado alerts and impending rainstorms the crowd numbered less than a thousand. The call from episcopal religious leaders across the state brought out a large number of clergy persons. The crowd contained more whites than blacks and obviously they were more philosophically liberal; if there were conservatives or Republican legislators present they kept a low profile.

Speakers on stage were mostly black, almost all men, and the message focused almost entirely on the disenfranchisement of the poor and minorities. If this movement is really interested in engaging mainstream North Carolinians and bringing about significant change it must become more inclusive. The needs and concerns of women, middle-income taxpayers, parents of school children and people of all races and ages must become more integrated into their message that too many are being shut out of the legislative and decision-making process. And while the numbers of those arrested each week might get news headlines those arrests do clog up our legal system and reach a point of diminishing returns.

For their part, Republican leaders seem to be doing more to help this protest movement grow into a statewide imperative than calming it. Every time one of them calls the protestors “outsiders” or ridiculous names like “morons,” whenever these leaders say they are not open to civil discourse and refuse to back down, they throw fuel on the protest fires. These leaders might win today’s legislative and government battle but they are losing the public opinion war.

Current leaders were elected on a platform of more accountability, smaller government and lower taxes, but voters did not hand them the keys to government expecting them to be arrogant, unresponsive and unwilling to work for the common good. As public servants they need to remember they represent all the public, even those who don’t agree with them.

In truth, there have also been outlandish statements made by protest leaders. It’s time for everyone to take a deep breath, dial down the dialogue and stop playing to the media or partisan supporters. We are at a crossroads and it is now time for those involved to take the moral high ground and get off their moral high horses. North Carolina has too many serious issues for us to be fighting with each other.

Unyielding demagoguery isn’t getting us anywhere. Each side claims they are willing to meet the other and seek resolution, but if that were true we would see evidence of honest and respectful dialogue underway. Now is a time for statesmen and true leaders to surface, to sit and reason together, seeking to understand as much as to be understood. And that likely means both sides might have to compromise, an essential element that has kept our republic viable for as long as we have existed. North Carolinians are watching, hoping all involved will demonstrate their care and concern for one another and our future.

June 13, 2013 at 2:49 pm
Brad Caudle says:

What are some of the outlandish names used by the protestors against the Republicans? You used "morons" and "outsiders" as examples of name-calling by legislators, so why not publish some creative names used by the other side in the spirit of bipartisanship?

June 13, 2013 at 6:56 pm
Bill Koch says:

Guess episcopal religious leaders do not believe in prayer. They seem more into breaking the law.

June 13, 2013 at 9:01 pm
dj anderson says:

You know what, imagine them kneeling in prayer in the halls of the assembly and being arrested for that! That's a good idea.

June 13, 2013 at 7:03 pm
dj anderson says:

How is this success being measured, by news cameras? This is not what I'm feeling.

The party seems to be falling apart without power. The Religious left has sided with the Democrats. Rev. Barber is the apparent face of the party now. Experienced Democratic legislators don't seem to be able to shape the majority actions, just point helpless fingers.

This current legislation is reminiscent of the actions taken when Democrats took over the White House in 2008 and had 59 Senate votes. The party in power uses its power to get what they want because they were voted into power. In NC, the Democrats lose both houses of the assembly & governorship so for the first time in a century the Democrats don't have the legislative votes or veto to stop the Republicans.

Everyone seems to agree that tax reform in NC is needed, and it is happening, but where is the Democratic plan? I'm not hearing it. I'm hearing one side demonizing the other for essentially doing what they promised in the campaign.

Go join Tom at Moral Monday before the Assemblies close if that is where you think you can change the actions of the elected officials. Tom's right, taking the moral high ground is essential for the party at this time. The Democrats lost that position via misadministration of Medicaid, Mental Health, state finances, well, our government in general. All in all, looking back, Easley & Perdue, Jim Black & internal party sexual harassment, resignations, etc. make one appreciate Jim Hunt's 8 years.

What happened to our well oiled Democratic state government machine to put it out on the sidewalk and blocking the halls hoping to arrests and media coverage?

June 14, 2013 at 9:14 am
Boyd Cathey says:

June 16, 2013 at 11:24 am
Vicky Hutter says:

This commentary appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun on June 16, 2013. It is an even-handed response to both sides of the philosophical and political divide in our country and brought both sides to task for their tactics which are unhelpful to productive public discourse on major issues. Bravo, Tom Campbell!