The New York Times is obsessed with the disturbing rightward shift in North Carolina, and used the uninspiring hook (the start of a state legislative session) to run yet another ominous story. It was reporter Trip Gabriel's turn on Sunday to document how not even North Carolina's governor is right-wing enough for the newly conservative state legislature: "North Carolina Governor Tested by Own G.O.P. as Legislators Return." (Though the North Carolina left still hates Gov. Pat McCory enough to get him disinvited from a local music festival.)
Times reporter Kim Severson has also provided sympathetic coverage of left-wing protests against "the newly conservative Republican leadership in North Carolina [which is] raising its voice against the loss of the state’s centrist government and what they see as diminished recognition of the poor and minorities."
Last December, Gabriel himself wrote about the state's "abrupt rightward swing" and how "the state legislature veered sharply right" from its former status as a "relatively moderate" state. Gabriel wrote on Sunday:
As legislators returned to town last week, 10 months after a tumultuous 2013 session when Republicans passed one deeply conservative bill after another, one Republican seemed a bit like the odd man out.
That would be Gov. Pat McCrory, who ran for office in 2012 as a moderate bridge builder and then found himself the face of a party whose restrictions on abortion, voting access, and benefits for the poor and unemployed played out in the most polarizing legislative session in memory in what had been a relatively moderate Southern state.
The legislature has a less ambitious agenda this time. Protesters are promising another round of the Moral Monday marches that drew national attention to the Statehouse. But one of the main questions of the session is whether Mr. McCrory, a former bipartisan mayor of Charlotte, can influence the powerful Republican leadership.
Last year, critics accused the governor of a sharp pivot to the right as he signed bills to end the state’s earned-income tax credit for the working poor, make deep cuts in unemployment benefits, and establish a right to carry concealed guns in bars and parks.
But close observers said the governor had little choice given the solid conservative control of both houses.
Ideological labels leapt out all over the place. The text box: "A reputed consensus builder encounters an assembly with a clear conservative agenda." A photo caption read: "Some observers say Gov. Pat McCrory had no choice but to pivot to the right."
Gabriel finally got to state's great job numbers, though he immediately offered partisan caveats.
Unemployment has fallen from 9.5 percent when Mr. McCrory took office to 6.2 percent. Critics say part of the unemployment drop was caused by a decline in the size of the work force, as discouraged workers stopped looking for jobs. Tax cuts shifted more of the burden from the rich to the middle class and working poor.
Polls show the General Assembly’s ideological tilt is out of step with North Carolina as a whole, which is a battleground in national elections. An Elon University Poll last month found only 37 percent of voters said the state was headed in the right direction, although the number was eight points higher than immediately after last year’s legislative session.
Employing a Times specialty, Gabriel found a "lifelong Republican" that nonetheless was displeased with his state's turn to the right.
Stopping at a paint store in the North Hills section of the capital, Charles Snyder, 72, who owns a construction company, called himself “a lifelong registered Republican” but said he was unhappy with the state’s conservative direction.
He lamented that the governor did not have more control over lawmakers. “If he agrees with them, he’s fine,” he said. “If he disagrees, he’s emasculated.”