When bipartisanship becomes whitewashing

Politicians who consider themselves progressives need to understand, you are what you do:

Gov. Pat McCrory could not have a more loyal lieutenant than Susan Kluttz, secretary of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. Even though she’s a lifelong Democrat, the former Salisbury mayor expresses unqualified support for McCrory, even though the Republican governor has taken a sharper turn to the right than many moderates expected. … Governor McCrory is identified with a political agenda that’s overtly disinterested in the problems of the poor. He has rejected a federally-funded expansion of Medicaid to some 500,000 North Carolinians, and he signed into law cuts in unemployment benefits so deep that the state was disqualified from federal benefits for the longterm unemployed.

Kluttz opened a speech in Salisbury last week touting the impact of those very steps. “I’m a part of an administration that began on Jan. 5, 2013,” she said. “At that point, unemployment was 9.4 percent, the (fifth) highest in the nation. The state owed the federal government $2.5 billion. There was a $500 million overrun in Medicaid, and state government was receiving much negative feedback about customer service. …”

Don't get me wrong, being a Democrat in McCrory's bent administration isn't inherently wrong. There are thousands of Democrats working diligently in their particular departments. But when you stand in front of a crowd and give your blessing to policy decisions that have harmed tens of thousands, you have become part of the problem, not part of the solution. And when the tides turn once again, don't expect to be able to ride that wave back to the land of the trustworthy. It's not like she doesn't have a crisis of her own:

Current budget proposals put forth by the N.C. Senate and House call for reductions in arts grants programs and substantial cuts to the staff of the Arts Council.

The board of the N.C. Arts Council focuses on three main areas that benefit all of North Carolina: Creating a strong arts infrastructure across the state, planning and implementing economic development initiatives using the arts and enhancing the creativity of our students and youth.

The board’s recommendations are then presented to the secretary of Cultural Resources, who makes final decisions. This procedure has worked well over many years and promoted high standards and fairness in funding for the arts around the state.

What is the reasoning behind these severe cuts aimed specifically at our grants programs and at our exemplary staff? The arts are the primary cause of attracting thousands of tourists to the state.

Have legislators not seen the economic studies showing there is a multiplier effect of almost $20 created in the arts for every dollar invested by Arts Council grants? Arts and cultural organizations and audiences generate more than $62.3 million in revenues for the state.

You don't have to be a fly on the wall to know what Republicans have told Kluttz about getting more funding: "Once we get our spending down on all these other programs, we'll be glad to contribute to the arts." The real questions are 1) does she believe them, and 2) does she care about the harm being done in the process?


Don't consider myself a purist

I don't believe in putting all Republicans in a neat ideological box, a box labeled, "Incapable of change." While there are some major ideological hurdles to overcome, common ground (or a reasonable facsimile) can be found on some issues. It may translate to lesser degrees of bad, but that's still something. By the same token, I don't expect fellow Democrats to hold all the same beliefs I do, to be summarily dismissed if they deviate on this or that issue. Again, it has to do with degrees. And it also has to do with the amount of harm their deviation could bring about.

All that said, I can't abide a cheerleader. I even get a somewhat sour taste in my mouth when they're cheering about something I believe in, especially if they don't seem to "get it." Like they're using the issue to get votes, not getting votes to fix the issue. If that makes sense. But I really hate a cheerleader that buys into the propaganda from the other side, speaking words that you know they know are wrong. It's not just a betrayal, it makes you doubt the sincerity of others as well, which is tragic. We can't get anything done if we don't trust each other.

In addition to budget cuts

The NC GOP's tax increase, in particular the new sales tax on many arts and cultural activities (concerts, museums, etc.) will further weaken the arts in NC and contribute to the downward economic spiral.

Democrat or not, it seems that Kluttz is one of several of McCrony's cronies whose real aspiration is to put their own agency out of business. Yes, part of the Wos-Decker-Skvarla club.

"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014