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August 24th / 25th, 2013

"A Bad Week for Both Coasts"

I don’t care on which end of Interstate 40 you happen to live, last week’s political activity was an affront to common sense. Here in North Carolina, Gov. Arch Conservative and his band of right-wing legislators passed a law that dismantled the Voting Rights Act. Meanwhile, in California, Democrat Gov. Moonbeam announced that a little boy who identifies with the opposite gender can now use the girls’ bathroom. In both states, the two chief executives and their respective political parties are way out of step with the majority of Americans, who believe that every adult should have the unimpeded right to vote, and that children shouldn’t even know what transgender means until they’re OLD enough to vote. Let’s begin with the more egregious of the two actions.

Over the past three decades, NC’s Democratic party elevated gerrymandering to an art form, and Republicans (whose symbol is an elephant) never forgot, nor forgave those tactics. And so, now that the GOP controls all branches of state government, they have gone on a rampage of revenge. The voter ID law is payback, and a not-so-transparent way for conservatives to retain their newfound power for years to come.

According to the law, anyone wishing to vote must possess a government-issued photo ID, such as a drivers license (but not a student ID from a state university). The problem is that more than 300,000 North Carolinians don’t have drivers licenses. Those folks must now go to the DMV and apply for licenses or obtain DMV-issued photo IDs, the latter of which requires them to produce an original birth certificate. For poor, elderly and disabled folks, that process can be problematic, expensive and difficult to navigate.

The new law also eliminates same-day voter registration, reduces the early voting period from 17 to 10 days and makes it nearly impossible for young people to pre-register or even vote in the districts where they attend college. The ripple effect of Gov. McCrory’s new voter-suppression law is already being felt from the mountains to the shore. A few days ago, the Watauga County Board of Elections shut down early-voting sites and a polling place on the Appalachian State University campus. Meanwhile, Pasquotank County just barred an African-American student at Elizabeth City State University from running for city council because they won’t recognize his campus address as a residence.

McCrory says that his all-encompassing voter ID bill is necessary to protect us from voter fraud. But in 2012, there was only one reported case of voter fraud in all of the state. Thus, the governor is fixing a problem that doesn’t exist. Even worse, he may be effectively fixing future elections, because the overwhelming majority of people directly affected by the new law historically vote Democratic. McCrory has turned from being a moderate Republican who succeeds through compromise, to an uncompromising leader who’s been hijacked by an elite group of right-wing wackos. Which brings me to the left-wing wackos in California.

Crazy on Both Coasts

Last week the state’s Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill to protect children who might become transgender. Brown’s bill isn’t about protecting the rights of people who have undergone sex changes. Rather, his new law gives special, discriminatory rights to minors who merely “identify” with the opposite gender. The law allows a boy who thinks he might want to be a girl someday, “to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities, and facilities based on [his] self-perception, regardless of [his] birth gender.”

Simply put, the law will allow biological boys in grades K-12 to use the girls’ bathroom and girls’ locker rooms. That’s a clear violation of the biological girls’ privacy rights. But hey, the Democrats in Washington are trampling over everyone else’s privacy rights, so why not do the same in California bathrooms? Brown’s law might also keep some female athletes from competing on girls’ teams, because coaches will now be obligated to let boys take some spots. Ironically, the California law will cause more discrimination, violations of rights and bullying than it was intended to prevent.

Let me be clear: No one has the right to chastise or discriminate against any adult for his decision to undergo a sex change. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 45 percent of 18-to-24 year old transgender people commit suicide, so it is imperative that those folks are treated with the same respect and consideration that any of us expect to receive.

Still, Gov. Brown’s law just makes things worse for everyone, because it attempts to subvert our educational system based on someone’s identification with another gender, not on actual gender.

And so there you have it. One governor is helping some children find their identity to the detriment of others, while the other governor is forcing some adults to prove their identity to the detriment of themselves. It’s what you call a real identity crisis.