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Demonstrators take part in a Moral Mondays march in Raleigh, N.C. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

Hi America. It’s North Carolina. We Know What You’re About to Go Through.

Peter St. Onge

Hello America,

It’s North Carolina.

We know some of you are a little jittery right now about the 2016 election. We understand.

It’s not just Donald Trump that has you nervous. It’s Donald Trump and a fully Republican Congress. Next year will be the first since 1928 in which Republicans controlled the presidency and had such large majorities in the U.S. Senate and House. Just one year later, the Great Depression began!

Sorry. That’s not helping.

But we do know what you’re about to go through.

Four years ago, when Pat McCrory was elected governor here, he joined a House and Senate that already was Republican. It was the first time in more than a century that the state government was so thoroughly red, and a lot of moderates and progressives worried how far to the right conservatives would tilt this purple state.

Turns out, it was a legit concern. But some not-so-horrible things happened, too. More on those in a bit.

First, here’s what you can expect after President Trump takes office:

Republicans, without a looming veto from the Oval Office, will pass pretty much all of those conservative measures they’ve wanted for years. Big bills, small bills, social issues, the environment, you name it. It’ll come in a rush, too, as if they’re worried this opportunity might be snatched away at any moment.

We know what some of you are thinking: Hey, it’s a diverse country that split its presidential vote. Surely, Congress will restrain its conservative inclinations at least a little so that it represents the interests of all Americans.

Hahahaha no. North Carolina has a diverse population, too. Didn’t matter. Republicans passed a grab bag of conservative goodies, like abortion restrictions and voter suppression measures and cruel cuts to unemployment benefits.

That’s not even the scary part. Here, when Republicans got power, they wanted more of it. They intruded on local government issues, even going so far as redrawing a school board voting district. The party of local control became exactly the opposite. Could that happen nationally with the party that cherishes states’ rights?

As for the executive branch: In North Carolina, Pat McCrory ran as a moderate Republican who could bridge ideologies. But when McCrory got to Raleigh, he bowed to GOP lawmakers, whom he feared would walk all over him anyway.

Donald Trump will be different in some ways. For one, he won’t stand for looking publicly weak in the face of Congress. But that doesn’t mean Congress won’t play him like the Beltway novice he is. Already, Senate leader Mitch McConnell has taken congressional term limits – a Trump campaign favorite – off the table.

If all of that sounds awful for moderates and progressives, well, yes. But we’ve also re-learned a basic truth these past four years: There may be nothing better for a political party or movement than to have the other party completely in charge for a little while. Because that party will inevitably overreach and mess things up.

That’s what happened in North Carolina. Those laws Republicans rushed to pass? Some have been struck down in federal court. Then there was another law – you might have heard of it: HB2.

Republicans passed that discriminatory bill, and although McCrory objected to at least some of it, he cowered and signed it, anyway. Now, after national ridicule and hundreds of millions of dollars leaving the state, the public has risen up against HB2. It probably cost the governor his reelection.

Which brings us to another less-than-horrible thing. Four years ago, when Republicans took control of N.C. government, the progressive movement here was weak and despairing. Now, it’s found a voice, and it’s a powerful one.

That’s not a North Carolina phenomenon, by the way. It’s a pendulum that’s swung back and forth throughout our country’s history. (Including, some might say, in this year’s presidential election.) In many ways, it’s the best kind of checks and balances we have on each other.

No, change doesn’t happen in a year, or sometimes even in four or eight years. We still have a Republican House and Senate here in North Carolina, and we might for a while. But nothing is permanent, America, even if it feels that way.

And trust us, we know how it feels.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Peter St. Onge

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