Dr. Michael Bitzer: What will lawmakers do with McCrory, Obama agendas?

Published 11:31 am Saturday, February 14, 2015

Now that we’re through the “chief executive’s wish list” phase of the legislative year, both for the nation and North Carolina, the comparison between the two gives us a hint as to how both President Barack Obama and Gov. Pat McCrory are setting the agenda for the coming year.

The president’s annual State of the Union address served as the final call for the president to set his stamp on his agenda and, ultimately, his legacy. Many commentators have remarked that it was one filled with renewed confidence and liberal prowess and strength. He seemed like himself, freed from the cares of having to run another election bid.

The willingness to take on the Republican-controlled Congress — albeit one without a veto-override majority — seemed to inspire the Democratic president to lay down the gauntlet on key issues and to continue the political divide and polarization that has settled into Washington politics.

In comparison, North Carolina’s chief executive doesn’t have to worry about the political opposition putting up roadblocks to his agenda. However, Governor McCrory may have just as complex a path to achieve his goals.

Even with super majority rule in the North Carolina General Assembly, the Republican Party does not represent a homogeneous group. Rather, it’s factionalized into distinct blocs of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives and tea party conservatives.

McCrory wants to represent a more moderate ideological strain — a pro-business, Chamber of Commerce-oriented conservatism. His counterparts in the legislature are a wider ideological spectrum, especially in the more conservative state Senate.

McCrory’s agenda marks a rollout of aggressive policies that most North Carolinians generally agree is needed: jobs and economic improvement, education, connectivity between urban and rural parts of the state, health care, public safety and improving government efficiencies.

Getting agreement on what the specifics of those areas should be, however, will ultimately be the real test of gubernatorial leadership and will serve as the criteria for next year’s electoral battle.

Stylistically, both President Obama and McCrory seemed very assertive. They made the most of garnering not only the attention of lawmakers, but also focusing the public’s and media’s attention on their priorities.

Don’t expect President Obama and the GOP Congress to achieve much with the 2016 election cycle already moving into second gear, but the jury is still out on whether McCrory can garner his own party’s support for what seems to be an ambitious agenda for the long session.

Dr. Michael Bitzer is provost and professor of politics at Catawba College. This column is from the blog he writes for WFAE radio, The Party Line.