How fitting it was that Pat McCrory, the southern-fried bigot who staked his political career on fighting the non-existent epidemic of transgender bathroom molesters, wound up blaming his doomed re-election on the non-existent epidemic of voter fraud.
The important thing is, he’s out. Finally. It took McCrory a month to concede the North Carolina gubernatorial race — even while still insisting this week that there are “questions that should be answered about the election process.” Did he have any actual evidence of fraud? Of course not. But do we have actual evidence that his nutcase homophobia, his brief reign as the nation’s bathroom cop, basically cost him the election? Absolutely.
Feel-good stories have been rare in this dystopic election season, but the fall of McCrory — champion of the fright-wing law that bars transgender people from using the johns that match their gender identity — is definitely worth a smile. Even though North Carolinians voted to put a tweeting demagogue in the Oval Office, they still made it clear that the bathroom BS was out of line and unacceptable. This was the issue that sent McCrory packing.
Even though the state’s voters told exit pollsters that they were basically split on the merits and demerits of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, they were decisively scathing about the law that McCrory and the conservative legislature had ginned up in 12 hours during a March special section. According to the exit poll, 65 percent of North Carolinians said they opposed the law; only 29 percent supported it. And the landslide majority that opposed the law chose McCrory’s opponent, Democrat Roy Cooper, by 64 to 33 percent.
LGBT folks and their allies everywhere should be heartened by what happened in North Carolina, because this episode demonstrates, yet again, that brainless bigotry is a political loser in the 21st century.
Start with the fact that the bathroom law was a faux-solution in search of a non-problem; that there’s no evidence that transgender john-users have been preying on innocent straights. Even Fox News, after looking for evidence last April, found nothing. Politifact, the fact-checking site, found a grand total of three cases in 17 years nationwide — but the assailants appeared to be biological males who’d simply dressed up to go into women’s bathrooms. Even Trump shrugged off the law, saying last spring that everyone should “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.”
The law is currently tied up in court. A federal judge suggested in August that it violates federal equal rights statutes. But the best moment was when the federal judge asked McCrory’s lawyer: “How does this law make bathrooms and changing facilities safer?” McCrory’s lawyer replied: “There is no enforcement mechanism.” To which the judge said, “Then why have it?”
But most importantly, North Carolinians quickly realized that bigotry hurts the bottom line. A state that has long prided itself on being corporate-— Charlotte, in particular, is a banking hub — got hit with a wave of boycotts. Dozens of major players, including American Airlines, Apple, Bank of America, Citibank, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Delta, Disney, Google, Home Depot, Levi Strauss, Marriott, Microsoft, the NBA (which moved its all-star game out of state), and the NCAA (which moved championship games out of state) all declared that they would not do business in a state that codifies intolerance. Their customers abhorred intolerance, therefore they did too.
Every region in the state was adversely affected — including, most ironically, the liberal towns and cities that hated the bathroom law. As a bookstore owner in Asheville lamented last spring, “We’re being made to pay a price for a law we vehemently oppose … Our store, too, is being boycotted. Customers from other states tell us they won’t visit until the law is no more. More threatening to us financially and to our community culturally is the cancellation of events by authors.”
Bathroom cop McCrory seemed baffled by the massive backlash; last spring, he remarked: “It’s a dramatic change in society norms in a very, very short period of time.” Yeah, welcome to the 21st century.
He paid the price for intolerance by losing his job — and the same thing might’ve happened to Mike Pence, had he not grabbed the brass ring on Trump’s merry-go-round. Pence, you may recall, was at risk of losing his Indiana gubernatorial re-election bid after signing an anti-gay bill that prompted protests from (among many others) Eli Lilly, the NCAA, Salesforce, and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. He buckled to the economic pressure and pushed the legislature to “fix” the law by watering it down to mush. Pence may be a moralist, but he learned — a year before McCrory — that bigotry is very bad for business. Especially since gay-tolerant millennials will increasingly come to dominate the customer base.
Three cheers for the free market. As the Human Rights Campaign declared on Monday, “Pat McCrory’s reign of discrimination is finally over.”