View from the center

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 2, 2013

You’ve heard the spin from the right and the left regarding this session of the General Assembly, but little from centrists. I don’t claim to speak for all of them, but I call myself one and think I can provide some insights into what moderates want.
We despise the mean-spirited partisan acrimony enveloping our state. People on both sides feel a liberty to call those with whom they disagree ugly names, use foul language and spout venom at them. North Carolinians are better than this and have traditionally been able to disagree without being disagreeable. Can we call a truce and publicly denounce those who don’t speak and act civilly?

Moderates aren’t satisfied with public education outcomes and recognize the education community hasn’t achieved meaningful reform, but we also recognize many dedicated people are working hard in education. There is good education taking place in many classrooms and we can’t summarily dismiss successful teaching. Actions taken toward NCAE and teachers, who largely supported Democrats, felt like retaliation, not steps to improve outcomes.
The same is true for election law changes. Democrats changed election laws to favor turnout from their base and we understand Republicans wanting to level the playing field, but we don’t get the hubbub over voter ID. An ID is required in many places and we don’t feel discriminated against when someone asks for one. However, there is no evidence of corruption that requires an ID. Moderates don’t vote straight tickets anyway so that change might result in the election of more unaffiliated candidates and be a good thing.

The tax changes passed were a good start but not the major reform promised. Tax savings primarily benefit the rich and businesses. The budget reflects fiscal responsibility and we like adding to the Rainy Day fund. We also agree there is inefficiency and like efforts to make government more accountable, less burdensome and cost effective. But the abortion bill, the intrusion into local municipalities’ governance and other actions seemed like vindictive revenge against Democrats.
Republicans gained control in election districts the Democrats gerrymandered because we unaffiliated and moderate voters wanted change. Now Republicans’ have their turn at bat, but moderates don’t like the hard turn to the right, just as we didn’t appreciate the leftward steering of Democrats.
Please understand this: The Republican social agenda is just that — your agenda, not ours — and it appears to be your guiding star.

Here’s what centrists want. We want a government that works, works for all of us, not just a chosen few constituents. We want public servants who are indeed servants, willing to engage in dialogue. That includes being willing to listen, with a desire to seek compromise for the common good.
Changes made this legislative session are not as draconian and disastrous as Democrats say; neither are they the slam-dunk victory Republicans claim. They are the most dramatic changes our state has seen since The Great Depression and The Great Society. Centrists are willing to give this new team some time to see how the changes impact our state. But our No. 1 priority is we want to know a clear and positive plan of where Republicans want us to be in four years and how they are going to lead us there.
Tom Campbell is former assistant state treasurer and is creator/host of NC SPIN, a weekly discussion of N.C. issues airing Sundays at 5:30 a.m. on WFMY-TV and Saturdays at 7 and 9 a.m. as well as Sundays at noon and 10:30 p.m. on WGSR. Contact him at