NEW YORK—I’m gonna explain this Pat McCrory thing to you.
As his world crumbles around him, Pat McCrory keeps doubling down on the “Keep Our Public Bathrooms Safe” issue.
Surely the man knows he’s losing.
So you may be wondering: Is he insane?
Doesn’t he have some lobe in the Political Survival region of his brain with a neon sign blinking “Bail Out! Seek Refuge! Career Killer Ahead!”
Doesn’t he know this is one of those public Dogpile Jamborees that stays with you the rest of your life and goes on your tombstone?
And yet he keeps churning away. He keeps saying that the nation’s “liberal agenda” is driving his agony. He believes, apparently, that Fortune 500 companies, professional sports leagues, and coaches who belong to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes are all part of the vast “Punish North Carolina” conspiracy, just because we Carolinians are not politically correct.
He’s become a states’ righter. The federal gummint needs to keep outta our binness.
Meanwhile, the economic damage to the state is approaching a billion dollars and is almost certain to go higher. McCrory can gaze out the window of his office in the state capitol and watch 18-wheelers full of hundred-dollar bills heading for Interstate 40 West. If it were fifty years earlier, I’d expect him to start claiming a Communist conspiracy. As it is, he’s left with the straw men of “political correctness,” the federal courts, and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, all soft targets that don’t really work anymore because Obama-bashing is simply passé in a year when Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are occupying all the sniper-rifle target space available.
There’s only one solution to this, and I know what it is because I myself am a Southern white male, therefore fully capable of getting myself into a situation like this.
We need a Southern Female Intervention.
Ideally this would be his grandma. McCrory is only 60, so there’s a possibility that one of his grandmothers would be alive, but if that’s not an option, it can be his mother, his wife, an older sister, or—if all of those are absolutely unavailable—any pissed-off spinster aunt related by blood.
This designated Southern female will approach McCrory at the breakfast table, withhold the biscuits until she has his attention, and then say, “Pat, you’re either gonna stop this nonsense or I’m gonna slap you nekkid.”
And then she’s gonna serve the biscuits and gravy—and that’s all it will take.
Pat McCrory knows this. He grew up in Jamestown, North Carolina, a town of 3,300 people just 45 minutes down Highway 52 from Pilot Mountain. Pilot Mountain is the town cited by Andy Griffith as the inspiration for Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show. This is one of the most beloved sitcoms ever made, and the reason is that it always drew a contrast between two ways of solving a problem.
There was the Sheriff Andy Taylor way. Andy would put the town drunk Otis in jail, but leave the key with him so he could let himself out when his sentence was up. Andy rarely arrested anyone—he tended to talk some sense into them before they committed a crime. Andy was especially fond of eccentrics like Floyd the barber, mentally challenged citizens like Gomer Pyle, and misfits like Ernest T. Bass. Andy’s philosophy was always “Calm down, we can figure this out together.”
And then there was Deputy Barney Fife’s way: Shoot first and ask questions later. This is why Andy limited Barney to one bullet and required him to keep the bullet buttoned inside his shirt pocket.
But here’s the point I wanna make. We Southern men know that sometimes we’re Andy Taylor and sometimes we’re Barney Fife. We’re both. We can go either way. We can suddenly decide to buy a log cabin in Gatlinburg sold to us by a time-share shark who fails to tell us that the cabin has no indoor plumbing or running water—then insist for the next twenty years that we don’t need indoor plumbing or running water, it’s more fun this way. We can get so insulted by a neighbor’s fence that we decide to build our own fence, one inch away from his fence. We can wake up one day and decide that the air horn on our recreational vehicle needs to play the “Woo Pig Sooie!” chant of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
But we only do this when we’re in Barney Fife mode.
When we’re in Andy Taylor mode, we listen to Aunt Bea.
Aunt Bea insists that the flowers be pruned, even if we don’t like flowers. Aunt Bea insists that everyone be at the supper table, together, at 6 o’clock—even if we have other things to do. Aunt Bea makes everyone go to church, even on days when you have a headache. And Aunt Bea insists, above all, that we don’t do anything stupid or redneck.
Pat McCrory, as of today, is in Barney Fife mode. We just need to get him into Andy Taylor mode.
So let’s review. How did this thing start?
It started because the city of Charlotte passed an antidiscrimination ordinance. It wasn’t about bathrooms, it was about housing and taxis and other areas where people were getting hosed because of their race or gender. But it did have that part about people being allowed to use whichever bathroom corresponded to their brain-gender.
So what would Andy Taylor do in this situation?
He would say, “You must be talking about Clem Stinson. I know Clem wears a dress, God bless his heart, and so yeah we’ll take care of it. Barney, tell me whenever Clem is around so we can make sure he doesn’t get bothered by the guys at the barbershop.”
And what would Barney Fife say in this situation?
He would say, “We have to nip it, Andy! We have to nip it in the bud!” And then he would start talking about how, if you let one guy in a dress get into the girls’ bathroom, the world will fall into chaos.
The whole North Carolina legislature turned Barney Fife.
They called a special session just to pass this one law. They wrote it, passed it, signed it, all within eleven hours. The Democrats in the senate were so disgusted they walked out and refused to vote at all.
They even gave it a Barney Fife name: “An Act to Provide for Single-Sex Multiple Occupancy Bathroom and Changing Facilities in Schools and Public Agencies and to Create Statewide Consistency in Regulation of Employment and Public Accommodations.”
And then, before the ink was even dry on the document, there was more chaos in the state of North Carolina than there was on the day Barney started hiding behind a bush to enforce the speed limits on the road to Mount Pilot.
Uh, Barney, I have a question. The law says that you can only use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on your birth certificate. WHO CARRIES A BIRTH CERTIFICATE AROUND?
They could have made it the gender on your driver’s license, but that would be too practical.
Uh, Barney, another question. I don’t see anything in the law about enforcement or penalties. What happens if you go in the wrong bathroom? Do you get jail time or do they just make you clean urinals for a week?
Several sheriff’s departments in the state asked for clarification, because one thing the real deputies have no interest in is hanging around roadside picnic areas checking for perverts in the restroom.
But that wasn’t the worst part. The law was passed on a Saturday night. By Monday afternoon you had over a hundred public condemnations of the law—and I don’t mean the gay and lesbian and transgender organizations. One of the state’s largest employers, Dow Chemical, didn’t even wait until Monday—their public-affairs guy went on Twitter to voice disapproval immediately. American Airlines, which operates so many flights out of the Charlotte airport that it’s become one of the nation’s major hubs, was unequivocal in its vilification of the law. Next came Michael Jordan, chairman and principal owner of the Charlotte Bobcats and one of the most popular athletes in history, with his public statement in opposition. Before a week had passed, you had conventions being canceled, Deutsche Bank scrubbing a planned expansion, PayPal doing the same, and Bruce Springsteen saying he couldn’t perform in North Carolina because, apparently, Pat McCrory didn’t know what it meant to be born in the U.S.A.
So you may wonder what Barney’s reaction was.
“I expected that.”
McCrory said this was just evidence of the “selective corporate elite” ganging up on North Carolina. That would be the same selective corporate elite he was courting for business during his many successful years as the mayor of Charlotte. It’s as though he drew all this business to the state, then said, “Well, I knew they wouldn’t stay for long, it was just a temporary thing. Keeping transsexuals out of the wrong restroom is more important.”
Uh, Barney, has anyone ever been arrested for harassing women in the ladies’ room while dressed in drag in the state of North Carolina? Ever? In the past few centuries?
No, because we’re nipping it.
Within one week of the passage of House Bill 2, it had been branded as the worst piece of gender legislation ever dreamed up. Facebook and Twitter were awash with hundreds of thousands of people vowing to boycott the state, and McCrory had to know it was a mistake.
That’s okay, said the Barney Within, we’re doing just fine.
And then every day since then has been bad news and then worse news and then catastrophic news for North Carolina. The Justice Department filed suit against the state to prevent them from enforcing the law. The hotel business got slammed with canceled reservations. Federal funding for the seventeen universities in the state system became endangered. A billion dollars in money for elementary schools might get held up. And House Bill 2 pretty much became Cause Numero Uno for gays and lesbians, not just in North Carolina but nationwide, because gay activists feel an emotional kinship with the transgender population.
Then Barney World crumbled to dust when the sport of basketball turned against McCrory.
Basketball is the religion of North Carolina. Most babies in North Carolina are born with a basketball already attached to their right hand. Asked to choose between hopes for your child’s future—winning the Nobel Prize or playing on a college basketball team—the choice is clear. Pat McCrory’s credibility as a governor may be able to survive attacks by the president, the head of the United Nations, or the Pope, but when the basketball coach of Duke University says you’re a dunderhead, doing it with such class that he never even mentions your name, you’ve got to know that you’re so unpopular you might as well go spit on the Wright Brothers monument at Kitty Hawk.
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