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Governor Cooper’s office calls the HB2 repeal “an important step forward for LGBT rights” even though it “wasn’t a perfect compromise or the Governor’s preferred solution.”

LGBT leaders call it a “sellout” and an “insult.”

This is the oldest debate in politics. Not liberal/conservative. Or Democrat/Republican. But “compromise” versus “all or nothing.”

The Governor had to weigh competing needs – and pain. There is the LGBT community’s pain of discrimination, bigotry and intolerance. There is the pain of lost jobs and income among working people who depend on tourism, conventions and sports events that HB2 cost the state.

That’s a painful choice. And it clearly weighed heavily on the Governor.

He did the right thing. Now he faces threats of retribution from Democratic progressives. Even talk of a primary challenge.

Nothing would please Republicans more. Nothing would do more to keep them in power throughout the 2020s.

I’m reminded of Robert Caro’s account of Lyndon Johnson when LBJ was Senate minority leader in the 1950s. Johnson pushed for modest civil rights legislation. He was maligned by his Southern colleagues, for doing too much, and by liberals and civil rights leaders, for doing too little.

LBJ persisted. Step by step. A decade later, by accidents of tragedy and history, he was President. Democrats had big majorities in Congress. Whereupon President Johnson pushed through the most sweeping civil rights act in history – and a Voting Rights Act that transformed America’s politics.

Compromise is frustrating. It may be more fulfilling to denounce leaders who take half a loaf today. But it’s self-defeating to attack those leaders when they share your goals, have shown their courage and will keep coming back, again and again, until the job is done.

When I worked with Governor Hunt, we had a mantra that reflected his willingness to compromise and his determination to keep pushing: “Good step. Right direction. Lot left to do.”

So it is.

 

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