Opinion

Good advice for lawmakers

This editorial appeared in The Fayetteville Observer (TNS)

Roy Williams spoke truth to power Wednesday. We hope power was paying attention.

Williams, the UNC-Chapel Hill basketball coach, brought his NCAA championship team to the General Assembly to be honored for its glorious accomplishments this year. But while he had the microphone, he couldn’t resist doing some legislative coaching.

Williams told the state’s lawmakers, gathered in a joint session, that he’s had “more gifted, more talented teams, but none that played as well on game night, none that played as well under difficult circumstances.” And then he pivoted quickly from athletics to politics: “This team made sacrifices toward a common goal. You folks in here are faced with decisions every day, and I hope that you'll think about the common goal and be disciplined and make sacrifices.”

In case they missed the point, he added: “What you do to help our state is the most important thing going on. We need your help in a lot of ways. We need you to reach across the aisle to work together as a team.”

Roy Williams isn’t the only North Carolina resident to notice polarization in the General Assembly. The day before the UNC team’s appearance in the Legislative Building, Elon University released the results of its latest statewide poll that probes voter positions on key North Carolina issues.

Of the voters contacted, only 28 percent said they approved of the way the General Assembly is handling its job. A majority, 54 percent, say they disapprove. Gov. Roy Cooper did better, with 48 percent approving of his job performance and 29 percent disapproving. Forty-one percent said he was doing the job better than predecessor Pat McCrory and 24 percent said he was doing about the same. Twenty-six percent said he was doing worse. None of those numbers add up to 100 percent. The missing numbers were those who said they didn’t know the answer or have an opinion on the question.

Looking at those numbers, it’s easy to wonder how our state and federal politicians ever get re-elected. But polling for overall values misses the typical voter appraisal of politicians: My guy’s pretty good, but the rest of them are a bunch of idiots.

On some big state issues, the poll found strong support for raising the age for adult criminal court trials to 18. Voters favor legalization of medical marijuana by nearly 4-1 but oppose legalization of the drug for recreational purposes, but by only a narrow margin. And voters strongly believed that House Bill 2 wasn’t good for the state.

So the voters don’t much like our state lawmakers and find themselves out of sync with them on some key and controversial issues. And even a non-politician like Roy Williams can see what the problem is.

Do you suppose that might make them work better together and heed the wishes of the majority of this state’s voters?

Nah, we don’t either.

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