Using government’s power to quiet dissent

By Paul T. O'Connor | May 26, 2014

Rep. Bob Brawley could be a poster boy for today’s Republican Party.

He distrusts government, espouses lower taxes, votes pro-business, and in the 2013-14 General Assembly he has co-sponsored bills on gun rights, reducing unemployment insurance and blocking Medicaid expansion. Other bills honor fallen soldiers and the Boy Scouts. In short, he’s your typical Republican combo: patriot and conservative malcontent.

But last week the 10-termer from Mooresville was as unwelcome in GOP circles as are the MoralMonday marchers.

He wasn’t arrested for “petitioning the government for a redress of grievances,” as the marchers have been; he was just kicked out of the GOP’s House caucus for expressing his views.

It’s a curious political contradiction that the party of the individual, of the fellow who pulls himself up by his bootstraps, of the independent business person who abhors government meddling, that that party has no tolerance for individuals who have grievances with their government.

The official caucus spin is that Brawley was talking out of class, sharing the inner workings of secret House GOP caucus meetings with the citizenry. Brawley denies that. (So much for transparency in our lawmaking, but that’s another contradiction of this bunch.)

Only Republican apologists believe that spin.

Brawley was booted from the caucus because he is a pain in the butt to House Speaker Thom Tillis and his leadership team. Brawley has been complaining for a year about, among other things, a bail bondsman training bill that he says will enrich the family of one key member and he has opposed the speaker’s position on toll roads. In both cases, he’s done so with indelicate language.

Come to think of it, however, what did Brawley expect? He should have observed a Monday night march and seen how little tolerance the anti-government party has for people who oppose their government. They write silly rules about making noise in the people’s building and then haul violators off to jail when they make noise.

Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, who for years was a noisy protestor on the House floor about all things Democratic, and who only last year complained that the GOP was running the House using the same autocratic methods as the Democrats, is now towing the party line. The protestors make too much noise and make it impossible for House members to work, he said.

To which I respond with what my son, a high school junior at the time, who after spending two days as a page on the House floor, said of the noise and turmoil, “If we behaved like this, we’d all be staying after school every night.”


It’s not that Brawley and the protestors are making noise; it’s the noisy message they’re sending that the Republicans don’t want to hear. The anti-government party now is the government, and GOP leaders aren’t so anti-government any more. They enjoy using the government’s power to hush dissenters, be they Bob Brawley or the Monday marchers.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Scott Lilly | May 27, 2014 09:04

"Protesting" has little productive value.  A better idea would be to debate.  It's been my experience that those that have no defensible positions to debate resort to "the protest" as a way to impede the other side.  A protest to draw attention to an issue or to clearly communicate opposition to an issue is legitimate.  Protesting to disrupt legitimate business is not.

Posted by: Penny R Wallace | May 27, 2014 09:43

As I recall the people who participated in the original tea party disrupted business in a real way. The protests in NC  have been mounted in light of refusal by legislators to fairly debate an issue. Most legislators are one issue folks with little knowledge of anything beyond their particular prejudice. They have been voted in by only those voters whose particular ideals align with theirs.  Until we the people choose to select people who can listen, learn and base decisions on more than one idea (no new taxes) then we are doomed to reap the consequences mob think instead of through give and take that results in compromise.

Posted by: Scott Lilly | May 27, 2014 10:26

Good point, Ms. Wallace, on the original Tea Party.


If true debate were to make a comeback, more than "compromising" it might allow two perspectives to argue respectfully until the best idea surfaces.  Sometimes that's a pure one-sided position.  Sometimes the "other side" brings up good points to consider.


I remembered long ago in high school we had a "debate" chapter in one of my classes.  (I can't remember which.)  And I think there was a debate club.  Do kids of today learn debate?  If not, perhaps that's something we should teach.


I think the Haywood County Republican and Democrat parties ought to organize and sponsor a quarterly debate.  Something constructive instead of just fundraising, preaching to their own members, and polarizing the political environment.

Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | May 27, 2014 10:51

              When one side refuses to debate, protests are effective.

              Went thru that at Purdue in early 70's. It was illegal for more than three people to meet, regardless of reason. It was illegal to protest whereby any "leader" or "organizer" was arrested. We had informal protests. Anyone wanting to protest would post a notice and anyone interested would show up. At a large anti-WAR protest there were many veterans speeking. A group of what turned out to be local punks dressed in home-made uniforms from the army surplus store attacked a vet in a wheel chair. Big mistake! They walked away with their underwear and bruises.



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