High ground or high horses

Jun. 15, 2013 @ 09:37 AM

I went to last 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 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.

Tom Campbell is former assistant state treasurer and is creator/host of NC SPIN, a weekly discussion airing Sundays at 6:30 a.m. on WRAL-TV and at 8:30 a.m. on WRAZ-TV FOX50.  Contact him at www.ncspin.com.