Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Thou shatl not legislate in haste

Legislate in haste; regret at leisure.

The N.C. General Assembly is back in session, surrounded by pro- and anti-HB2 protesters clamoring over the so-called "bathroom bill" passed hastily last month. Both sides have fortified their positions for this battle, and even Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the hurriedly passed legislation, has called for a revision — but only a modest one.

Meanwhile, opposition to the bill has taken a more serious trajectory than a series of protests in and around the legislative building. Businesses and performers have canceled their commitments in North Carolina, saying they don't want to be a part of a place where the government dictates who uses which bathroom — an interpretation HB2 supporters say is erroneous. These cancellations have hurt the state economically, and that's a language everyone understands.

Even those rallying in favor of HB2 understand the loss of millions of dollars in revenue, but they blame the news media and deliberately misleading interpretations of the law for the losses to the state's economy.

It's difficult to say how this battle will turn out in the short legislative session. There will be attempts to repeal HB2, but repeal will be extremely difficult in a legislature so gerrymandered that most legislators need not worry about challenges from the other party.

The dispute over the full meaning and intent of HB2 will drone on through the legislative session, but one lesson might be learned from all of this: Do not rush to legislate; give the process time to work through the interpretations and nuances of any bill. Otherwise, you might be surprised by the vehemence of opposition from not only political opponents but also by businesses, performers and tourists.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Republicans face split whatever they do

It's scary for Republicans this year. In what many thought would be a cakewalk to the White House amid all the Obama hatred, Republicans instead are looking at a possible collapse of the party.

If the nation is divided between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, male and female, gay and straight, black and white, blue collar and white collar, the Republican Party is also splitting between the traditionalists and the Tea Party types. This split threatens party unity like nothing since the 1964 GOP convention. Democrats have not seen such an angry divide since their 1968 convention.

For Republicans, it's beginning to look like a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. Donald Trump, the leader in committed delegates, is calling the nomination process unfair, claiming there's a conspiracy against his candidacy, saying the rules have been changed or the rules are unfair. His fanatical followers are latching onto his complaints as further proof that the party and the government in general have ignored them and stacked the cards against their interests.

Many Trump followers are threatening to walk out of the convention if their candidate doesn't get the nomination. Trump himself might walk out. If his followers are angry enough, they don't need to do anything in November. Their simple refusal to participate in an electoral process they see as "rigged," will deliver the presidency, and perhaps the House and the Senate, to the Democrats.

The only scenario scarier than that, to many establishment Republicans, is Donald Trump as the Republican nominee, or (perhaps worse) a Trump presidency. Although Trump has garnered the majority of Republican primary votes, his nationwide disapproval rating is over 50%. It seems highly unlikely that with such unpopularity and perceived lack of qualifications that he could win a general election. Establishment Republicans fear that he would bring down candidates farther down the ballot, costing the party an opportunity to consolidate their gains in 2010 and 2014.

And should he win, his narcissism, his bluster, his insults and his lack of interest in the details of issues or foreign policy could lead to a disastrous presidency.

Unless things change, Republicans face a divided party no matter whom they nominate. If it's Trump, moderate and mainstream conservative voters will abandon the party's presidential nominee and probably hurt other party nominees. If it's not Trump, the billionaire and his loyal followers will stay home on election day, handing the White House and perhaps many other seats of power to the Democrats.

Democrats win if you do; Democrats win if you don't.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Is it a boy? Is it a girl?

"I can't believe my baby's having a baby," the post-midlife man said, hugging his daughter, careful not to smush the extended belly she proudly displayed with a stretchy top that clung to her middle like a girdle.

She patted her bulge and smiled. "I believe I am, Dad." 

"And you're going to find out the sex today? I'm so excited."

"I had the sonogram this morning, Dad, but we're not finding out the baby's gender yet — and, by the way, the preferred term is gender, not sex."

"What? Why not. Was there anything wrong on the sonogram?"

"No. Everything's fine. I've got the sonogram photo right here." She handed over the shadowy 8x10 photo to her father. "We just don't know what his/her gender is yet. Nobody does. Nobody will for a while. We don't know what gender he/she will identify with until he/she is much older. We just have to be patient."

Looking confused, Dad looked at the sonogram. Every sonogram he'd ever seen, which weren't many, looked more like a Rorschach test than a fetus. This time, though, he saw something interesting. He held the paper so the lighting was right, he adjusted his bifocals, and excitement brightened his face. "What's this right here," he said, pointing at the center of the sonogram. "Isn't that a penis?"

His pregnant daughter looked. "Might be, but it doesn't matter. Your gender isn't determined by what's between your legs; it's determined by what's in your brain and in your heart."

"But this baby is obviously a boy, a male!" He had been hoping for a boy, a grandson with whom he'd share sports and camping.

"We don't know that, Dad. Gender is not a physical thing. It's a mental thing. Your body might say one thing, but your heart says another. It would be cruel of us to jump to the conclusion that he/she is one gender or another based on physical evidence. He/she has a right to choose, a right to identify with the gender that is in his/her heart and soul."

"So what are you going to do? Paint the nursery half pink and half blue?"

"Actually, we were thinking of green. We don't want to put any pressure on the child to follow one path or another. His/her decision will be his/hers alone, and we will accept and celebrate his/her decision."

"Well, when will I find out whether I have a grandson or a granddaughter?"

"I'd give it 12 years at least. Maybe longer."