Governor Cooper and Democratic legislators showed something last week that is so rare in America today we hardly know it when we see it.
Political courage is when you do what you believe is right. Even if it disappoints your strongest supporters. Even if it could cost you an election.
Name another politician – Democrat or Republican, Raleigh or Washington – who has done that lately. One who stepped outside their safe space. One who took a risk.
The Governor, legislative leaders Darren Jackson and Dan Blue and members like Cynthia Ball and Joe John took a risk and did what’s right.
It’s like taking down the Confederate flag. They made Republicans, despite their supermajorities, take down the HB2 flag.
For Governor Cooper, it took grit, patience and an iron determination to stop the damage to North Carolina’s economy and our good name.
After the vote, he and legislators who voted yes came under attack from some progressives and Democrats who wanted no compromise.
But that would have kept the status quo in place. It would have kept HB2 on the books.
Yes, the three-year moratorium on non-discrimination ordinances is bad. But it’s better than “religious freedom” or “conscience” laws that would have enshrined even more bigotry. The Governor stopped those.
Ned Barnett summed it up well in his Sunday N&O column, “HB2 is gone and that justifies Cooper’s compromise.” He wrote:
“HB2 was a statement from conservatives that they don’t acknowledge the legitimacy of transgender people. It was a-boy-is-a-boy and a-girl-is-a-girl manifesto. They didn’t care who it insulted or who it endangered. Now it’s repealed. The statement is erased from state law. And that’s a big improvement.
“Despite that gain, LGBT advocates are accusing Cooper of betraying them. Their anger is an indulgence that ignores the risks he took on their behalf and the service he is trying to render to the state as a whole.”
It’s no doubt personally satisfying to go on social media and rail against compromise, and to vow vengeance in the next election.
But it’s political suicide. It rewards Phil Berger and his crowd. It would help them stay in power, enact more discriminatory laws and continue all the damage they do to North Carolina.
I respect the Democratic legislators who voted no on the compromise.
But I have even greater respect for the Governor and those Democrats who made a much more difficult choice.
They made the right choice. They moved North Carolina forward. They took a big step on the long, hard journey to fairness and justice for all.
They deserve our thanks, our respect and – above all – our support.