In the wake of the North Carolina Republican Party's anti-democratic grab for power and refusal to repeal the anti-LGBTQ HB2 earlier this month, calls are mounting for an economic boycott of the state.
"The fact that many other injustices have been added to [the] outrage [of HB2] and pushed forward in the final week of 2016 by an out-of-control Republican legislature demands that we respond with every nonviolent tactic available to us," argues Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and architect of the Moral Monday movement.
GOP legislators have not only undertaken efforts to suppress the will of the voters, they have seized power from a newly-elected Democratic governor in a special Christmas session; stripped power from the state Supreme Court to which a second African American has been newly elected; and passed draconian laws that harm the poor and working people of the state. This unprecedented scheme to enact major changes in the structure and functioning of government without the consent of the people should alarm the entire nation.
If such a blatant abuse of power goes unchallenged by people of good will, these legislators will do more than wipe away the rights of millions of North Carolinians; they will spread the virus of injustice throughout the body politic of the entire nation. Their actions will signal to other would-be tyrants that they can get away with non-democratic power grabs with impunity. The results could set civil, social, and economic rights back more than 50 years.
Indeed, political science professor Andrew Reynolds of the University of North Carolina has classified the state as no longer "a fully functioning democracy," according to Reynolds' system of analysis, the Electoral Integrity Project, which compares and scores democracies around the world.
"That North Carolina can no longer call its elections democratic is shocking enough," wrote Reynolds in the News & Observer, "but our democratic decline goes beyond what happens at election time. The most respected measures of democracy [...] all assess the degree to which the exercise of power depends on the will of the people: That is, governance is not arbitrary, it follows established rules and is based on popular legitimacy. The extent to which North Carolina now breaches these principles means our state government can no longer be classified as a full democracy."
Barber observes that athletics institutions such as the National Basketball Association, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and the Atlantic Coast Conference have already decided to boycott the state in response to HB2.
And this week saw historians following suit, as directors of the 2018 Business History Conference announced they were moving the conference location from Charlotte, N.C., to Baltimore, Md.
Many large corporate entities are headquartered in North Carolina—from Bank of America to Lowe's—and supporters of democracy are also urged to "vote with [their] wallets" and take their business elsewhere.
According to Barber, the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP will create a formal proposal to take to the national board of the civil rights organization, asking for approval of and support for a nationwide boycott of the state.
"Following the successful boycotts of South Carolina over its refusal to retire the Confederate flag and over Arizona's unjust targeting of immigrants and their families," writes Barber, "this economic boycott will send a message to the state that governments that violate the rights of their citizens must pay a high price for their abuses."