Civil approach to a broad constituency

By Paul T. O'Connor | Jun 12, 2014

There’s a reason the N.C. Association of Educators has a middling record of electing the candidates it endorses, and Phil Berger knows that reason:

Many are Republicans, and many Republicans care about public education. NCAE has a strong Democratic identity, so some people assume all teachers are Democrats.

Sen. Berger, R-Rockingham, showed North Carolinians why he’s the state’s most powerful politicianMonday night when he sat down for a civil conversation with 15 teachers who were participating in a Moral Monday protest.

Contrast Berger with Gov. Pat McCrory who, last year, fibbed about meeting with protestors and House Speaker Thom Tillis who, when protestors occupied his office, slipped away to avoid them before they were arrested the following morning.

When protestors finally chose Berger’s office as their sit-in site, Berger found time to meet with them. To Berger’s advantage here, we must add, was the fact that the teachers are probably the constituent group of Moral Monday protestors who are least offensive to Republican sensibilities, even if these 15 were all Democrats.

Berger may believe in the old advice to hold enemies close, or he may have learned to engage protestors from previous Democratic legislative leaders like Sen. Marc Basnight.

Faced with major protests, Basnight and most Democratic House speakers would defuse some of the protest anger by either meeting their leaders privately, or sending a key lieutenant to do so.

Over the last 35 years, there have been numerous protests at the Legislative Building. Some were just as big and raucous as any of the individual Moral Monday protests. But none endured more than a few days or weeks.

There were the Equal Rights Amendment protests of 1980-81, the Moral Majority protests of the 1980s, the UNC student protests of the 1990s and, most dramatic of all, the farmer protests in the late 1990s. Farmers protested over hog farm rules and the tobacco settlement.

Democratic leaders in those days understood that they needed the votes of the conservative Democrats who were protesting. By meeting with them, they defused the anger, found some points of compromise, got the protestors to go home and remained in power until 2011.

Contrast that strategy with McCrory, who insulted abortion protestors with a cookie drop, and Tillis who hid from protestors in keeping with the modern day tradition of running for statewide office by hiding from all but one’s strongest supporters and donors.

Back to Berger. He compromised on his Read to Achieve program because it was angering parents. He showed respect to teachers by giving them his time and engaging in civil discussion. Berger understands that he can’t ignore teachers or the many parents concerned about education any more than Democrats could ignore farmers.

The Tillis approach led to 2 a.m. arrests, the McCrory approach to trespass citations. The Berger approach ended without either.

Berger didn’t end the protests, but Republican teachers and Republicans who support schools probably feel better about him than they do about their other two leaders.


Comments (6)
Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 12, 2014 19:08

"He showed respect to teachers by giving them his time and engaging in civil discussion." -- That's a 2-way street.  If you want to be engaged in civil discussion with respect, you have to participate in civil discussion with respect.  There is very little "respect" in a protest.  Protesters are those who just want to act like a clown and get attention because they either aren't competent enough to have a civil discussion or their positions are indefensible.  This article really ought to be re-slanted to show how incredible that a Moral Monday person would actually sit down to talk!  Where in the world did he find 15 Moral Monday protestors that would so that?

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Jun 13, 2014 09:24

           The protests resulted because of a refusal of OUR duly elected representatives such as mccrory and tillis to engage in any civil discourse whatsoever. We the people have a Naturally inherent or otherwise inailianable right as protected by OUR First Amendment  "peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievences".  That is exactly what was going on until mccrory and tillis disrespected the rights of those merely asking to be heard. Protests followed. Along with civil liberties lawsuits several of which have been successful and as OUR Constitutional protections were reinstated, illustrates the failures of the current administration to uphold their sworn duties .



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 13, 2014 11:41

When a debate is lost, the losing side should not resort to the protest.  That's just being a sore loser.  When the issue is right vs. wrong, there is no duty to compromise to take a little wrong to make people happy and avoid a protest.  Yes, it IS ok to judge.

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Jun 14, 2014 09:35

            There was a refusal by mccrory, etc to debate or respect the remonstrators civil rights. Not only were they ignored, they were arrested by tillis just for being in OUR courthouse.



Posted by: Scott Lilly | Jun 14, 2014 13:08

It is not the duty of Gov. McCrory to debate with protesters.  If protesters want to debate, they are to elect representatives or attempt to persuade their representatives to do take the issue up with Gov. McCrory.  It is proper for our government to be protected from those that seek to disrupt its legitimate business that We The People have elected them to do.

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Jun 15, 2014 11:02

                That's what King George thought too.


                  I guess the First Amendment is lost on you. But yet you claim to want a Constitutional government.  Same with a republic.


                  How can you call yourself a "republican" and not support the Founding Principles as OUR Founders established of a republic?


                   No wonder you are unaware of "the Social Contract".



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