North Carolina has the dogwood as the state flower, the cardinal as the state bird, the plott hound as the state dog, the Fraser Fir as the state Christmas tree, and the emerald as the state gem. We also have the channel bass (red drum) as the state fish.
But a couple of those need to change. I think it should be the red herring as the state fish and the ravenous lame duck as the state bird because I have seen many more of those these past few months in the Old North State.
Red herring actually is a smoked herring fish, turned brown/red because of curing by salt and the smoking process. But it also refers to the logical fallacy of using something that really is not an important issue to stop people from noticing or thinking about something really important (merriam-webster.com).
A lame duck is a politician who has already been defeated in a primary/election and serving out the final months of a term with either “nothing to lose” or devoid of influence. It can be a dangerous bird of prey when it is both – that’s why it is called a ravenous lame duck.
This practice of using a red herring to draw attention away from these really important issues is something that many current members of the North Carolina General Assembly and governor’s administration have done very well.
Remember HB2? Rep. Tim Moore, LT. Gov. Dan Forest both spoke of the need to “protect our women and children” from the invasive Charlotte city ordinance that would allow transgender people access to the public bathrooms for the gender they identified with.
A special legislative session was called in 2016 in defense of our loved ones in order to pass sweeping discriminatory laws against the LGBT community. So strong they hoped was the scent of the red herring that they also passed two other vital really important pieces of legislation.
The first is the removal of rights for all citizens to bring to state court any discrimination suits against any employer for termination based on factors such as race, gender, sexual identity, etc. The second is the restriction placed on cities to make private contractors to pay a wage in line with local economy standards. That allows private businesses to bypass local authorities and underpay labor for a higher profit.
Remember the Voter ID law? When the voter ID law was passed those who sponsored the bill said that it was to protect the election process from voter fraud.
There’s your red herring – voter fraud. Except there was only one (maybe three) documented case of voter fraud in the state that could be used as evidence. That’s right; it’s practically nonexistent. But when a fish smells, it draws attention. What really was important is that this voter ID law actually hurts voter turnout for many minority voters, many of whom are in rural areas and are from lower income levels. Those same people tend to vote democratic.
So if I wanted to maintain political power in Raleigh as the GOP does, maybe I could keep people who generally vote for the opposing party from actually being able to cast a vote.
But what happens when a lawmaker who was defeated in a primary introduces legislation that seems so far-fetched that it may be a calculated distraction from actual issues that demand more attention because they have far-reaching effects?
That’s when a ravenous lame duck is throwing around red herrings for others to chase so that it can prey on vital issues without interruption.
Consider Rep. Justin Burr’s bill in the General Assembly to force local school boards to provide a list of all movies shown in any classroom in the district to the state superintendent’s office. It’s a bogus bill meant to draw attention away from the fact that Burr’s party has passed a budget that never underwent debate or amendments and clearly is less of a benefit for public schools than what Gov. Cooper proposed.
It’s a bogus bill that is meant to draw attention away from the fact the nearly 50 million dollars from the federal government for pre-K education was funneled to other projects.
It’s a bogus bill meant to move the “centrist” line further to the right so that when legislation is introduced later in the summer it can look more inviting to people because bills like Burr’s actually “blurs” the lens by which we measure legislation.
Burr’s bill will not be the last one of its kind. Ideologically-driven legislation that somehow resides on different plane than the small-government platform but justified because of a personal vendetta might be rather prevalent this summer. The budget is passed and there are months before election day. That time will not be used by Berger, Moore, Tillman, and Dollar idly.
They will get their ravenous lame ducks to hurl their red herrings so they can further feast on the state.