Sunday, December 19, 2010

N.C. Senators Vote

see note below

Remarkably, Senator Richard Burr (R, NC) cast a seldom seen Republican vote in favor of a Democratic Party sponsored measure, the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy instituted by a Democratic President, Bill Clinton.  Burr has not been a member of the miniscule Republican "moderate" caucus, which is mostly the two ladies from Maine having a quick bite at the cafeteria from time to time.  He was immediately vilified by many of the commenters at various right wing sites, and was immediately threatened with a primary challenge.  However, Mr. Burr has just won re-election, so really, the primary threat is rather empty.  Six years is, in these days, quite a long time.  Who would even bet a lot of money on there being an election in six years?  Perhaps he calculated that further aggrieving the "gay vote" in North Carolina was a pointless activity, and perhaps the votes were counted and this was a moment when just a smidgen of human warmth being detected from the GOP was judged to be a worthwhile PR move--if the thang was gonna pass anyways.  Or I guess it's even possible, in the metaphysical sense, that Mr. Burr actually believes that the gross injustice done to thousands of members of the military by DADT, and the exclusion from service of thousands of highly qualified potential recruits, was simply bad for our national security, and just plain un-American.  It is possible.  And there's this too--maybe, just maybe, Burr's "defection" from the concrete wall of total opposition to everything Obama which is Republican Policy One harbinges the slight chance that the Senate will next year be slightly more functional--a risk the powers-that-be in the GOP might be willing to take for PR reasons given than they now have the House in hand.

Meanwhile, our Democratic Senator, Kay Hagan, voted against the Dream Act.  What was the reasoning there, pray tell.  My guess is that whereas the gay voters, or at least a good number of them, are articulate, educated, and middle-aged, the children of undocumented people have almost no voice at the polls.  In North Carolina, the undocumented workers have become a wedge issue for the right--the Legislature has already succumbed to pressure and implemented draconian rules concerning drivers licenses which have the practical result of causing far more uninsured drivers to be present on our roads, not to mention created innumerable petty difficulties for people without proper identification as they attempt to navigate their daily lives.   The Right in NC keeps whip in hand on this issue, pushing for more and more assaults on little people brought here in the first place by American industry big and small--construction, landscaping, and around these parts, meat processing are heavily accomplished by Latino labor, much of it undocumented.  Mrs. Hagan knows all this, as of course does Mr. Burr, who unsurprisingly also voted against the Dream Act.   Mrs. Hagan comes up for reelection in four years I believe, or possibly two--sooner, anyway, than Mr. Burr.  Neither of our senators, at any rate, is particularly concerned with the obvious and blatant waste of human potential which defeat of the Dream Act continues.  Not when their seats are at stake anyways.  But Mrs. Hagan can certainly say, next election--"I voted with Mr. Burr on both DADT and the Dream Act."

It is not helpful that the White House, a day after the DADT vote, isn't sure what to do about pending cases in the military which were instituted under the DADT rules. 

Note.  Thomas J. Pearsall was an NC legislator born in Rocky Mount, NC, in 1903 (two years younger than my dad).  His name was appended to NC's "Pearsall Plan," a legislatively devised effort to thwart Brown V. Board of Education without going to the spiteful extreme of actually closing North Carolina Public Schools.  The Pearsall Plan was supported and implemented by Governor Luther Hodges, who also is credited with creating the Research Triangle Park, and who served as a Cabinet member under John F. Kennedy.  After leaving the NC Legislature, Mr. Pearsall devoted himself to the Roanoke Island Historical Association.  That is, he and the missus retired to the beach.   As the plaque indicates, there is a library in Rocky Mount now named for his family.  I'd expect that as the years roll on, both Mr. Burr and Mrs. Hagan will also end up with buildings named after them, or their families.  In any event, the Pearsall plan worked pretty well, from the point of view of them what didn't want any black people associating with white people in the public schools of North Carolina.  I graduated from high school in an all white class in 1961, six years after Brown V.,  and went to a University of North Carolina which had yet to see its first undergraduate black student, not even its first black athlete.  Another ten years or so, and things did change in NC with regard to segregated schools. Think of it.  Ten more whole years.  (Lately the Raleigh School Board has been taken over by Members determined to break down the fairly integrated quality of that fair city's school system, using the tried and true "neighborhood schools" argument.  Suits are no doubt pending.)

Update: In the comments Suzan remarks that Hagan would have been defeated in her next election had she voted for the Dream Act.  I think Suzan might be correct on that, but although it's certainly obvious that NC is succeptible to the wedge issue of undocumented workers, the Dream Act was footed on a very defensible  sense of justice and fair play which Mrs. Hagan might have utilized to blunt the racist blather which was sure to come her way.  Hagan's tack is just the usual "Go Slow, Go Slow" (to quote our great North Carolinean, Nina Simone's anthem "Mississippi Goddam").  If the conservative trend continues up until Hagan's next election, my guess is just being a Democrat in North Carolina will be a millstone for her.  We've actually lost the Legislature to the GOP already--a shocking event that never happened during the Helms era.  I'm just more concerned with the waste to thousands of young people who have been North Carolina residents since they were tiny, who are graduates of our high schools already, who have dreams of a reasonable life in the country they live in.  Not that I don't get the practical political point Suzan makes.  But on the other hand, Pearsall had a long and successful career in NC politics, retired to the beach, got a library named for his family--and his name is historically associated forever and ever with a sly strategy which delayed Brown V. Board for a generation longer--a fact which should never be forgotten.  Mr. Pearsall had choices.  (And, hell, my argument could be made against Mr. Obama's triangulation on the tax bill too--I certainly admit that.  Talk is cheap.) 

1 comment:

  1. As someone who grew up in Rocky Mount, which also volunteered for the first "mixed race" classes in junior high in the state in 1964 (nice year that - and I was in one of them), thanks for the info on the renaming of the library which was integrated during my childhood (the 50's) and was a point of pride in that town.

    Burr's vote for DADT will never be spoken of during his next run for office (and is prolly a result of his being friends with gays). Hagan's for DREAM would have ensured her defeat and the election of another Rethug.

    NC politics.

    Very slow to change, but Rick Glazier won!

    By the way, in 1968 UNC was fully integrated so it happened pretty quickly after the '64 "experiments."