I didn’t want to read Gene Nichol’s newest book, Indecent Assembly. I didn’t want to confront the truth about North Carolina’s hard lurch toward right-wing extremism. But I had to read it, and so should you. We’re all living in Republican hell; we should know how we got here.
If you’ve read other books by Mr. Nichol, you know he’s a master at bringing public policy to life. Indecent Assembly is no exception. Gene dissects the NC GOP’s juggernaut in painstaking detail, examining every brick they’ve used to build their ugly walls: Coercive legislation, illegal gerrymandering, the brazen takeover of our judicial system, and worse:
Strict voter regulations aimed at curtailing turnout; repeal of racial justice guarantees; new and generous school voucher programs for private and religious schools; potent and demeaning abortion restrictions; expansive new firearm possession and carry rights; attacks on teacher tenure and representation; dramatic cuts to K – 12 and higher education budgets; eased, “business- friendly” environmental regulations; internationally derided anti-LGBTQ+ measures; brutal cuts to an array of social programs designed to assist the poor; a formal and consistent opposition to Obamacare and Medicaid expansion; the largest cut to a state unemployment compensation program in American history; massive tax breaks for the wealthiest Tar Heels and out-of-state corporations accompanied by, astonishingly, tax increases for low-income workers — operating under the odd premise that giving money to the wealthy makes them virtuous and giving money to poor people makes them venal.
Indecent Assembly is a true story of power, greed, and bigotry, and it might just make you sick to your stomach. Read it anyway. We all need to understand what we’re up against.
Included in the opening chapter is a description of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina, led by Dr. William Barber. Gene’s writing reignited my memory of sitting all night in a Raleigh police station, one of 500 protesters arrested in the legislature that day. I can still feel the bite of those handcuffs.
It comes as no surprise that Indecent Assembly would tackle the issue of race boldly. In a searing chapter called “Governing as a White People’s Party,” Gene excoriates the resurgence of racism as a pillar of the NC GOP political strategy. No matter how much you think you already know about the topic, you’ll learn more in this book. The same is true in other chapters, including “A War on Poor People” and “Denying the Equal Dignity of Women.”
Indecent Assembly is a full-throated critique of right-wing extremism in North Carolina. The timing of its release couldn’t be better. Amidst the chaos of the Trump Pandemic, we must be reminded that Republican efforts to punish the poor and marginalize people of color are not side-effects of GOP policy, they are planks in their long-term strategy.
If “stay at home” guidance has you wondering what to do with yourself, buy a copy of Indecent Assembly and read every word. It’ll help you understand what’s been going down in North Carolina, and what our state’s madness might mean for other parts of the country.
We can’t fight injustice if we don’t know what we’re up against, and we won’t know what we’re up against without understanding how we got here.
Buy the book here: