The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

June 2, 2014

Using government’s power to quiet dissent

By Paul O’Connor
CNHI

Sunday, June 1, 2014 — Rep. Bob Brawley could be a poster boy for today’s Republican Party.

He distrusts government, espouses lower taxes, votes pro-business, and in the 2013-14 General Assembly he has co-sponsored bills on gun rights, reducing unemployment insurance and blocking Medicaid expansion. Other bills honor fallen soldiers and the Boy Scouts. In short, he’s your typical Republican combo: patriot and conservative malcontent.

But last week the 10-termer from Mooresville was as unwelcome in GOP circles as are the Moral Monday marchers.

He wasn’t arrested for “petitioning the government for a redress of grievances,” as the marchers have been; he was just kicked out of the GOP’s House caucus for expressing his views.

It’s a curious political contradiction that the party of the individual, of the fellow who pulls himself up by his bootstraps, of the independent business person who abhors government meddling, that that party has no tolerance for individuals who have grievances with their government.

The official caucus spin is that Brawley was talking out of class, sharing the inner workings of secret House GOP caucus meetings with the citizenry. Brawley denies that. (So much for transparency in our lawmaking, but that’s another contradiction of this bunch.)

Only Republican apologists believe that spin.

Brawley was booted from the caucus because he is a pain in the butt to House Speaker Thom Tillis and his leadership team. Brawley has been complaining for a year about, among other things, a bail bondsman training bill that he says will enrich the family of one key member and he has opposed the speaker’s position on toll roads. In both cases, he’s done so with indelicate language.

Come to think of it, however, what did Brawley expect? He should have observed a Monday night march and seen how little tolerance the anti-government party has for people who oppose their government. They write silly rules about making noise in the people’s building and then haul violators off to jail when they make noise.

Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, who for years was a noisy protestor on the House floor about all things Democratic, and who only last year complained that the GOP was running the House using the same autocratic methods as the Democrats, is now towing the party line. The protestors make too much noise and make it impossible for House members to work, he said.

To which I respond with what my son, a high school junior at the time, who after spending two days as a page on the House floor, said of the noise and turmoil, “If we behaved like this, we’d all be staying after school every night.”

It’s not that Brawley and the protestors are making noise; it’s the noisy message they’re sending that the Republicans don’t want to hear. The anti-government party now is the government, and GOP leaders aren’t so anti-government any more. They enjoy using the government’s power to hush dissenters, be they Bob Brawley or the Monday marchers.



Paul O’Connor is a syndicated columnist for Capitol Press Association and covers activities of the N.C. Legislature.