Wednesday, 22 December 2021 17:16

OPINION: Last minute stocking stuffers for the naughty and nice of NC politics

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Ho, ho, ho! It’s that time of year again — the fleeting period during which Americans of all stripes set aside petty partisan and ideological differences (hah!) and focus their attention on the one thing that, as humorist Jean Shepherd so accurately observed in his holiday classic “A Christmas Story,” tends to unify us all in and around the winter solstice: “unbridled avarice.”


Here therefore, are some suggested holiday gifts to meet the readily apparent needs of some prominent inhabitants of the North Carolina political class:

For Gov. Roy Cooper: The best virtual reality headset money can buy. If ever a politician had an obvious and understandable need to occasionally escape the crazy/impossible job to which he’s been elected and fantasize about a world in which a supportive legislature would enable him to effect the kind of vitally important change that millions of people elected him to accomplish, it’s Cooper. Ideally, the VR rig will come with a time machine setting for the early-1990s – an era during which our state was moving aggressively forward on a host of fronts and a progress-inclined governor was, despite having no veto power, usually able to convince the General Assembly to do his bidding with simple persuasion and common sense.

For U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis: A Disney Corporation gift certificate good for one “audio-animatronics” replica of himself. What better gift for politician looking to avoid reinfection with COVID-19 while grabbing some TV time during U.S. Senate floor debates and Judiciary Committee hearings? While no one has ever claimed that the Magic Kingdom replicas of humans and other animals are completely lifelike, a Tillis replica should suffice given the junior senator’s frequently robotic performances – especially if it’s pre-programmed with a handful of hot-button GOP catchphrases that the authors of Tillis’s fundraising appeals favor, like “secure the border,” “reckless Democrat spending,” “skyrocketing gas prices,” “unelected left-wing judges” and “ultra-liberal Kamala Harris.”

For retiring U.S. Senator Richard Burr: A series of visits from Christmas ghosts past and future to remind him that it’s not too late to do the right thing. Yes, nearly 30 years in Washington is a long time to spend going along and getting along without a legislative accomplishment of particular note, but perhaps a nocturnal visitor or two can remind the senator that there’s still time for his legacy to be marked by something other than departing office under the cloud of insider trading allegations. His vote to convict Donald Trump during his second impeachment trial last year reminds us that somewhere beneath that perpetually indifferent and seemingly distracted façade lies a dissenter from the strange, extremist turn his party has taken.     

For outgoing Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mandy Cohen: A month-long family vacation in a South Pacific paradise untouched by the pandemic, plus a commemorative Wonder Woman cape to commemorate her five remarkable years in office. During her tenure as HHS boss, Cohen has served as a remarkably intelligent, talented, and steady leader who has always put science and sound public health policy first and, in so doing, saved literally thousands of lives. One shudders at the thought of how our state would be faring had the pandemic hit during the tenure of former Gov. Pat McCrory’s badly miscast, deeply unpopular and weirdly eccentric secretary, Aldona Wos.

For Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson: Copies of Elie Wiesel’s “Night” and Heinz Heger’s “The Men with the Pink Triangle.” One supposes this deeply troubled man will probably choose to dismiss them as “filth,” but if there was ever a politician with a need to be educated on what can happen when a nation embraces the ignorance and cruelty embodied in the anti-Semitism and homophobia that are his stock-in-trade, it’s our state’s highest-ranking Republican elected official and likely 2024 gubernatorial candidate.    

For Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger: One day presiding over a crowded special education class in a broken-down trailer in one of the state’s low wealth school districts. After which, he would be given the opportunity to speak before a phalanx of microphones about his recent and preposterous claim that it is the plaintiffs in the Leandro school funding case who are the ones to blame for the “lagging achievement and outright failure” in their underfunded schools.

For House Speaker Tim Moore: A subscription to an array of “executive job” search websites. The transparently ambitious Moore has been trying to cash in by wrangling a high-paid government job (like a university chancellorship, or at the least, a promotion to a better-salaried political gig like a seat in Congress) almost from the moment he became Speaker. After seven years of coming up short, maybe he needs a little boost.  

For General Assembly Redistricting Committee chairs, State Sens. Warren Daniel, Ralph Hise and Paul Newton and State Rep. Destin Hall: A box of 64 Crayola crayons, three sheets of 3-foot-by-5-foot butcher paper and the temporary attention of five or six typical North Carolina third graders. Anyone who thinks the kids couldn’t come up with a set of fairer legislative and congressional maps under such circumstances than the absurdly gerrymandered monstrosities the lawmakers produced with digital technology isn’t paying attention.

Rob Schofield, director of NC Policy Watch, has three decades of experience as a lawyer, lobbyist, writer and commentator. Republished from NCPolicyWatch.org.