It didn't take long after former Governor Pat McCrory announced his candidacy for the US Senate that Democrats and like-minded columnists started calling him a "failed politician" who "doesn't stand for anything." One even likened him to "Thom Tillis without the brains," and the North Carolina Democratic Party made sure these accusations were distributed across the state.
These partisans failed to acknowledge that Pat McCrory was the long-serving and popular Mayor of Charlotte, was elected our state's chief executive in a statewide election and lost his re-election bid by just 10 thousand votes out of more than 5 million cast. A toll road and HB2 did him in. McCrory doesn't need us to defend his record; some good things happened during his administration. But that's not the point of this piece.
For the record, I know and like Pat McCrory. He was a panelist on my television show before being elected and I enjoy being in his company. There were and are points on which we agree and disagree, but I always found him willing to engage in reasonable debate.
I remember growing up and getting into arguments, even fights, with my brother. Being the oldest, I was the one who was usually called down for the offense. My defense that "he started it," was usually met just as quickly by my mom responding she didn't care who started it, she was going to end it. That usually meant I was going to be punished. Her point, which took me years to grasp, was that wrong is wrong. There is a striking correlation to this current situation: one political party cannot criticize another for being mean-spirited, prejudiced and offensive when they participate in those same tactics themselves.
And make no mistake, this attack on McCrory was just that — mean-spirited, prejudiced and ugly. I'm not endorsing McCrory's candidacy, but this episode shines a spotlight on what is wrong with politics today and why more good people are unwilling to get involved. You have to wonder what it is going to take for things to change.
We cherish our two political parties — I even wish there were more than two — and quickly acknowledge that it is perfectly alright to disagree with a politician, party or platform, but you can do it without all the nastiness. It would advance your cause further if you explained what you believed or advocated instead of trying to convince us how bad the other side is.
There are many notable examples of people with different politics who demonstrated the ability to work together. Former Senators Trent Lott and Tom Daschle, leaders of opposing political parties, wrote an excellent book on the subject, Crisis Point. In the introduction they write, "The adversarial system, embedded by the Founding Fathers into our system of government, was meant to spur debate, challenge complacency, and drive progress. It has sustained our Republic for over 225 years, but we have to face a sad truth; it has stopped working. In fact, it has begun to work against us."
That's the real message to this sermon. The divisive and hyper-partisan politics of today isn't getting us anywhere. Look no further than the animus between Governor Cooper and our legislative leadership. We haven't passed a state budget since 2017 because of it. Our recent history is littered by political arguments between the two parties that have prevented progress rather than promoting it. Now we are trying to climb out of a crisis situation caused by a pandemic and need all the help we can get.
We don't care who started it. What we care about is how we come out of it together.
Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina Broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965. He recently retired from writing, producing and moderating the statewide half-hour TV program NC SPIN that aired 22 ½ years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.